Leila Hasan is co-founder of the Women in Hebron cooperative. She will be speaking about their work and achievements as a form of peaceful grassroots resistance to occupation and oppression. There will also be an opportunity to purchase some of their lovely products.
Women in Hebron is a Palestinian nonprofit fair trade cooperative under the Idna Cooperative Association for Embroidery and Handicrafts and a Palestinian non-profit under the Idna Cooperative Association for Embroidery and Handicrafts. Their work began in 2005, when Nawal Slemiah, the founder and director of Women in Hebron, began selling handicraft in the Israeli-occupied H2 sector of the Old City market of Hebron and a short distance from the world-famous Ibrahimi Mosque also known as the Sanctuary of Abraham. Since then, Women in Hebron has grown from one table to a permanent fixture along the main thoroughfare of the Old City. Thanks to its sales of beautiful handicrafts through Women in Hebron, the Idna Cooperative Association has been able to open a small community center in Idna. Members of the association gather there to do their handicraft work, take part in educational programs and socialize with their peers. Over 150 women now embroider for the Cooperative, with new members joining every year. These women are seeking a means to earn wages for themselves and their families. For some, this is their only family income. Many of the women in the cooperative are divorced, widowed or have husbands long-detained by Israel.
Idna is a mid-sized Palestinian city of around 25,000 people, located to the southwest of Hebron in the West Bank.
Palestine is a land occupied by Israeli forces but also it is losing its culture, history and economy. Palestinians are denied autonomy in all aspects of their lives as well as their education and school curricula, their government and their ability to determine their future. Israel’s misappropriation of Palestine’s natural resources is symptomatic of the power dynamic between the two states: Israel controls and limits Palestinians’ access to their land, their water, their electricity and their right to gainful employment. In the city of Hebron in the southern West Bank for example, eight out of ten adults are unemployed and approximately 75% of its citizens live below the poverty line. Checkpoints impede Palestinians’ freedom of movement and the transportation of their goods across the West Bank. The Separation Wall, erected in 2004 in Idna, a town near Hebron for example, has cut off its citizens from their 500 acres of arable land and their access to the Israeli job market. In addition to their struggles against Israeli oppression, the Palestinian women experience constraints in terms of social and cultural expectations: they cannot work and earn decent wages anymore and are reduced to unpaid household work and child-rearing. Nawal Slemiah, the founder and director of Women in Hebron (WiH), a Palestinian nonprofit fair trade cooperative sums, the plight of Palestinian women the following way: “If we don’t give women power, they will not help to end the occupation. Women in Palestine are half of society, so they should share this act to end the occupation. The occupation will not end in one moment. You need a long time because we don’t have any power. The only power we have is inside ourselves…”
Sponsored by Women in Hebron; Peace and Justice Center; Vermonters for Justice in Palestine; UVM Students for Justice in Palestine.