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Crafting change together

In Jordan, local women and Syrian refugees are working together with the Jordan River Foundation and IKEA to produce handcrafted textiles.

A woman holding a blue cushion with eye design, and a close-up of the eye design with tassels.
A woman holding a blue cushion with eye design, and a close-up of the eye design with tassels.

Working together

Chaired by Queen Rania, the Jordan River Foundation (JRF) is an NGO that focuses on community empowerment. Through a new long-term partnership, JRF and IKEA are working together to help tackle the challenges of integration and provide jobs for local women and urban refugees using traditional handcrafts. The first intake was made up of 50 Jordanian women and 47 Syrian women, with the aim to create 200-400 new jobs by the end of 2020. New jobs are crucial, as nearly 700,000 Syrians have registered as refugees in Jordan since the crisis began in 2011, and the country already had high rates of unemployment.
Pictured: Tahani Al Khatib, artisan and Amneh Al Gawanmeh, Bedouin weaver at Bani Hamida weaving centre

Empowering women

JRF takes a holistic approach to socio-economic development, so the women were provided with a programme that included valuable life skills training as well as craft skills. ‘It’s a journey in terms of improving their self-confidence and believing in themselves too, not just learning a new craft,’ says Vaishali Misra, IKEA business leader for social enterprises. ‘Entering the workplace is a huge challenge. But if we can help these women get out of the house and into the job market, that’s where an understanding of each other’s culture develops and integration happens.
Pictured: Abeer Almnajed, artisan

Crafting change

The first collection – TILLTALANDE, includes hand-embroidered cushion covers, handwoven floor cushions and rugs. It went on sale in Jordan in December 2017 and the shelves were empty within a week. The craftswomen who attended the launch day were overjoyed to see their products in the store, to hear how much the customers loved them, and to meet Queen Rania. ‘Financial independence gives women the decision-making power so crucial to empowerment,’ says Vaishali. ‘We help to create role models in their own community, their opinions are valued.’
Pictured: Amira Abu-Hassan, artisan

Finding inspiration

Inspired by conversations and workshops with the craftswomen, IKEA designer Paulin Machado created designs with symbols of strong local significance, like flowering cacti and decorated eyes. ‘It’s a collection inspired by Bedouins and stories passed on by generations, from mothers to their daughters,’ says Paulin. The small tassels on the products resemble the traditional decorations worn by Bedouin women and the rugs are crafted using traditional Jordanian weaving patterns. Find out more in the video below.

    TILLTALANDE will roll out to selected markets in the Middle East, the US and parts of Europe this year
    Look out for social enterprise collections in your local store