Empowering Palestinian women, one stitch at a time
There are a few words that can be used to describe Najla Azar: petite, open, and inviting, just like her home in Beit Sahour, the largely Christian town outside of Bethlehem in the West Bank.
Almost all things sacred to her are displayed on her living room walls. A black and white photo of Azar and her husband, who is also her first cousin, on their wedding day is proudly displayed by the entrance. Framed pictures of her four children and their spouses, all of whom are Orthodox Christians, are also showcased. On her couch sits two needles with black thread wrapped around it. When the project is completed, it will be an intricately embroidered shawl that will join a vibrant collection of Azar’s other work including dresses, wallets, scarves, and bookmarks. These items, once pinned to the wall, are ready to be sold to customers around the world, a continuation of a lengthy journey.
Azar has been using her home as a workspace for nearly 50 years. As a seasoned craftswoman, she founded a business called “Cross Stitch 4 Palestine,” a website that sells embroidered products both locally and abroad. Her mission, however, is not just to sell handmade crafts, it is also to encourage the empowerment of Palestinian women.Azar expanded her business by allowing women from Bethlehem, Gaza, and Hebron to help her stitch products. The opportunity allows for the ladies to support themselves and their families.
“I wanted to help support these women,” said Azar, a 71-year old woman whose income supports herself and her husband, who is unemployed.
To read the rest of this article and more from our Arts & Culture issue, please subscribe to Palestine in America (PiA). Monthly subscribers will receive a digital and print copy of this issue and all future issues, as well as discounts on PiA merchandise and events. You can also purchase individual copies of the digital and print version.