Feb 25, 2019

Finding a market for Tiger bags in Nepal

Kancham, proud of her tiger bag!
Kancham, proud of her tiger bag!

This report is offered to friends of The Advocacy Project who have donated to one of five appeals we have launched on GlobalGiving on behalf of 35 remarkable women in western Nepal. The fifth appeal was posted late last year and is still active.

All 35 women lost loved ones to the disappearances during the conflict in Nepal (1996-2006). It is not surprising that they are still haunted by the memory. The group’s coordinator, Sarita, lost her father after he was falsely accused of Maoist sympathies by a relative. Sarita and her mother were then driven from the village. Sarita's husband died from a snakebite shortly afterwards. Poojah saw her father taken away by the army, never to return, and is still demanding an explanation - even though she is married to a soldier. Most older members of the group work in the fields for a pittance. They need justice. They also need money.

The women live in the district of Bardiya. AP began to support them through Global Giving in 2015. So far, our appeals have raised $15,735 from 259 generous donors.

AP was set up to support community-based associations like the Bardiya cooperative that are led by determined survivors of abuse like Sarita. But we – and the women – also understand that it will take more than determination to produce sustained benefits for the group members.

And this is why they are making bags.

They began in 2016 by using embroidery to describe the disappearance of their loved ones, often in graphic detail. The following year they turned from human rights to the environment, and made squares about the tigers that live in the nearby Bardiya National Park. AP brought the squares to the US where they were assembled into three delightful quilts by Bobbi, a talented quilter from North Carolina.

The women of Bardiya then decided to go into business. They commissioned several shops in Kathmandu to turn their Tiger squares into bags, but were dissatisfied by the result. So they turned to Sarita, who made 30 sample bags at the end of 2018.

And this is where we now stand.

There is no doubt that this project has empowered these brave women. We pay $20 for each piece of embroidery, which puts money in the pockets of the women and gives them the chance to work together and learn new skills. They have shown discipline in sharing out their income at the end of the year. Helped by a new sewing machine, Sarita has become an excellent seamstress and teacher. She dreams of opening a store at the Bardiya National Park where her friends can sell tiger bags to tourists.

This dream, however, will only be realized if the group can sell bags, and this is proving difficult. We do not know why. It could be the quality of the bags, or the cost of production (which includes the $20 paid to artists), or simple competition in a country where every trekker and tourist owns a bag.

It is hard for AP to help from Washington, so we have decided that Bobbi the quilter and Iain from AP will visit Bardiya in April. Bobbi will help the women assemble their commemorative squares into an advocacy quilt to be exhibited in Nepal and the US. She will also advise Sarita on her bag-making – the first time (to our knowledge) that an American quilter has visited the Global South to provide such technical assistance. Iain will seek out markets at tourist lodges and shops in Kathmandu, help the cooperative to design a new business plan, and profile the group on the AP website. Whatever we raise on Global Giving will go to the cooperative.

AP is committed to these women and to their vision. If they can launch a successful business they could influence the national debate in Nepal over how to compensate family-members of the disappeared, which has reached an angry stalemate. But we also understand the importance of investing your donations wisely. Right now, it hangs on finding a market.

Are we on the right track? We would love to hear from you!

In the meantime, know that the ladies of Bardiya are deeply grateful for your support.

We’ll keep you posted!

The AP team

Sarita gives embroidery training in Bardiya
Sarita gives embroidery training in Bardiya
Bobbi is heading to Nepal to help make Tiger bags
Bobbi is heading to Nepal to help make Tiger bags
Still missing her father
Still missing her father
Peace Fellows Vicky and Kirstin (2017) in Bardiya
Peace Fellows Vicky and Kirstin (2017) in Bardiya
Sarita hopes to sell Tiger bags to tourists
Sarita hopes to sell Tiger bags to tourists
Feb 25, 2019

Embroidery brings hope to women refugees in Jordan

Feeling optimistic at the Hope Workshop in Amman
Feeling optimistic at the Hope Workshop in Amman

This report rounds off AP’s support for an important and innovative project to empower women refugees fleeing conflict in the Middle East. The project was made possible with your help. We want to thank you and bring you up to date on recent developments.

Recap and history: First a reminder of how it began. In 2016, we launched an appeal on Global Giving on behalf of the Hope Workshop, an association of refugees that was started by our partner in Jordan, the Collateral Repair Project. The appeal raised $500 from 14 donors and made it possible for our Peace Fellow, Allyson, to start embroidery training for 12 refugees. The women told their stories through embroidered squares, which were brought back to the US and assembled into advocacy quilts.

The following year we launched a second appeal for the embroidery project, which raised $7,556 from 36 generous donors, including yourself. By the end of 2018, the embroidery training had been fully absorbed into CRP’s program. It was clear that our investment had exceeded expectations and with CRP's agreement we suspended the project.

We are proud of what we have achieved with your donations. By focusing on fundraising and embroidery, our three Peace Fellows (Allyson, Reina and Theresa), have produced results that we might have hoped for back in 2016, but frankly did not expect:

Telling the story of refugees: Embroidery has enabled the Hope refugees to describe not just their own ordeal but the sort of terror and uncertainty that faces refugees everywhere. We show one square below, made by Jenan, who lived in the northern Iraqi town of Mosul. It shows the family house being attacked by ISIS fighters. The artists began to produce more gentle images in 2017, with the aim of selling their embroidery (last photo). But their earlier depictions of violence continue to make a powerful impression, made more poignant by the exquisite needlework.

Empowered refugees: Your donations have helped over 60 refugees to survive the rigors of exile and regain their confidence. This said, there can be no sugar-coating the fact that the refugee's life will be one of uncertainty until a permanent solution is found. As Jenan told AP: “We weren’t at ease there (in Iraq) and we’re not at ease here.” But she and the others are now better prepared for what lies ahead after the Hope Workshop. CRP has described the impact on the women on its website.

International support: The embroidery project has energized CRP’s partners and attracted more support for the Workshop. In 2018 we teamed up with the Federation of American Women's Clubs Overseas (FAWCO) to show the first refugee quilt in Europe, the US and Jordan. FAWCO members also made two new quilts from squares, which were sold for $4,960. We celebrated their success in a news bulletin.

Educated students: The refugee quilts have been viewed by hundreds of students at universities in the US and inspired discussion at a time of growing xenophobia towards migrants and refugees.

Expanded training: CRP expanded training at the workshop from embroidery and by the end of 2018 your donations were helping to train 56 women in sewing, knitting and handicrafts (including calendars). Their products can be viewed on the Hope Workshop Facebook page and they include beautiful embroidered henna bags (photo below). Almost everything is sold in Amman. Woven gnomes are particularly popular.

Scale and sustainability: Perhaps the most encouraging outcome from this project has been the Hope Workshop’s evolution to a motivated association that is generating a serious income for its members. Your donations made it possible for CRP to hire a full-time manager and open a space for the Workshop. As training becomes more professional, this process will surely continue and leaders will emerge. With sales booming, it is even possible to dream of self-sufficiency.

Reconciliation: Finally, this program enables refugees to become self-sufficient and earn money without threatening the livelihood of Jordanians - a fear that often exists in countries of first asylum.

These are impressive results in just three years!

Thank you!

The AP team

Why refugees flee: Jenan's house burns in Mosul
Why refugees flee: Jenan's house burns in Mosul
Hard at work at the Hope Workshop, Amman
Hard at work at the Hope Workshop, Amman
The Third Refugee Quilt on display in Germany
The Third Refugee Quilt on display in Germany
Made and sold in Jordan - one of the Hope bags
Made and sold in Jordan - one of the Hope bags
The refugee's dream - reunite with her family
The refugee's dream - reunite with her family
Feb 25, 2019

Embroidery brings hope to refugees in Jordan

Feeling optimistic at the Hope Workshop in Amman
Feeling optimistic at the Hope Workshop in Amman

This report rounds off AP’s support for an important and innovative project to empower women refugees fleeing conflict in the Middle East. The project was made possible with your help. We want to thank you and bring you up to date on recent developments.

Recap and history: First a reminder of how it began. In 2016, we launched an appeal on Global Giving on behalf of the Hope Workshop, an association of refugees that was started by our partner in Jordan, the Collateral Repair Project. The appeal raised $500 from 14 donors, including yourself, and made it possible for our Peace Fellow, Allyson, to start embroidery training for 12 refugees. The women told their stories through embroidered squares, which were brought back to the US and assembled into advocacy quilts.

The following year we launched a second appeal for the embroidery project, which raised $7,556 from another 36 generous donors. By the end of 2018, the embroidery training had been fully absorbed into CRP’s program. It was clear that our investment had exceeded expectations and with CRP's agreement we suspended our support.

We are proud of what we have achieved with your donations. By focusing on fundraising and embroidery, our three Peace Fellows (Allyson, Reina and Theresa), have produced results that we might have hoped for back in 2016, but frankly did not expect:

Telling the story of refugees: Embroidery has enabled the Hope refugees to describe not just their own ordeal but the sort of terror and uncertainty that faces refugees everywhere. We show one square below, made by Jenan, who lived in the northern Iraqi town of Mosul. It shows the family house being attacked by ISIS fighters. The artists began to produce more gentle images in 2017, with the aim of selling their embroidery (last photo). But their earlier depictions of violence continue to make a powerful impression, made more poignant by the exquisite needlework.

Empowered refugees: Your donations have helped over 60 refugees to survive the rigors of exile and regain their confidence. This said, there can be no sugar-coating the fact that the refugee's life will be one of uncertainty until a permanent solution is found. As Jenan told AP: “We weren’t at ease there (in Iraq) and we’re not at ease here.” But she and the others are now better prepared for what lies ahead after the Hope Workshop. CRP has described the impact on the women on its website.

International support: The embroidery project has energized CRP’s partners and attracted more support for the Workshop. In 2018 we teamed up with the Federation of American Women's Clubs Overseas (FAWCO) to show the first refugee quilt in Europe, the US and Jordan. FAWCO members also made two new quilts from squares, which were sold for $4,960. We celebrated their success in a news bulletin.

Educated students: The refugee quilts have been viewed by hundreds of students at universities in the US and inspired discussion at a time of growing xenophobia towards migrants and refugees.

Expanded training: CRP expanded training at the workshop from embroidery and by the end of 2018 your donations were helping to train 56 women in sewing, knitting and handicrafts (including calendars). Their products can be viewed on the Hope Workshop Facebook page and they include beautiful embroidered henna bags (photo below). Almost everything is sold in Amman. Woven gnomes are particularly popular.

Scale and sustainability: Perhaps the most encouraging outcome from this project has been the Hope Workshop’s evolution to a motivated association that is generating a serious income for its members. Your donations made it possible for CRP to hire a full-time manager and open a space for the Workshop. As training becomes more professional, this process will surely continue and leaders will emerge. With sales booming, it is even possible to dream of self-sufficiency.

Reconciliation: Finally, this program enables refugees to become self-sufficient and earn money without threatening the livelihood of Jordanians - a fear that often exists in countries of first asylum.

These are impressive results in just three years!

Thank you!

The AP team

Why refugees flee: Jenan's house burns in Mosul
Why refugees flee: Jenan's house burns in Mosul
Hard at work at the Hope Workshop, Amman
Hard at work at the Hope Workshop, Amman
The Third Refugee Quilt on display in Germany
The Third Refugee Quilt on display in Germany
Made and sold in Jordan - one of the Hope bags
Made and sold in Jordan - one of the Hope bags
The refugee's dream - reunite with her family
The refugee's dream - reunite with her family
 
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