Forget Hermes, Louis Vuitton and Mulberry: after this year’s Abu Dhabi Film Festival (ADFF) , celebrities will be hitting the beach with a Liwa or Ras Al Khaimah-made special.
Around 15 ladies have been weaving for their country over the past few months in order to produce a collection of Emirati heritage-inspired bags for the celebrity gift lounge at the sixth edition of the festival.
Under the umbrella of the Sougha Project — a social enterprise initiative created and backed by the Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development (KFED) — the women from Mirfa, Liwa, Ras Al Khaimah and Al Ain have been busily making 200 beach bags and laptop covers in time for the annual event.
The bags will be given to the celebrity actors, actresses, producers and directors who make a visit to the Abu Dhabi Film Festival ’s VIP gift suite.
Once afraid to even be associated with the project due to a cultural taboo regarding women going out to work, the ladies are so proud of what they are now achieving they are weaving their names into each bag with pride.
Leila Ben-Gacem, senior manager for Entrepreneurship Development at KFED, said the ladies had reached new heights with the addition of this order.
“This is a big social achievement for these women,” she said. “The women are from deprived locations, job-wise. Many of them are second wives and have up to seven children to support. Women from tribal backgrounds live with conservative constraints. It’s not acceptable to work as the men are in control.”
Leila explained when the Sougha Project first began, it was “shameful” for the women to write their names on their products. “But now they are writing them bigger and bigger. As the business ventures are doing well they are getting the support of those around them.”
The Sougha Project was created to revive Emirati heritage by creating socio-economic opportunities for local artisans.
“The idea is to use the skills they have been using for centuries,” added Leila. “These women have been weaving palm trees since they were old enough to be able to.”
The Sougha Project is supported by Etihad Airways , which also sell woven purses and make-up bags in-flight. Etihad and KFED have funded the ADFF gift suite bags and 100 per cent of the proceeds will be handed back to the craftswomen.
“Some of Sougha artisans never had a bank account before joining, now they manage their money, reinvest into product research and enjoy financial inclusion,” said Leila. “Now a bag made by a lady from Liwa could be taken home by Richard Gere. Imagine the impossible.”
For more information visit www.khalifafund.gov.ae