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«Salt 4 Sewing» in Yemen - A Project That Is Thriving

| Helene Aecherli | Blog

Nine years ago, I started "Salt for Sewing Machines”, a handicraft project to empower women in the Yemeni capital Sana’a. And I am very happy to see that it is thriving and developing, and this is above all thanks to the dedication and tireless efforts of Shyma, my business partner, supervisor on the ground and very close friend. And it couldn't exist without Halima, a teacher as talented as passionate, who even hardly took time off after a surgery to be back to her students as soon as possible.

Meanwhile Shama and I have reframed the project to “Salt 4 Sewing”, as it is all about the art and craft of sewing and sewing being the grain of salt in the lives of so many Yemeni women. “Salt 4 Sewing” works solely through word-of-mouth recommendations, the students gather three times a week, on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday, in the classroom, that once was to a garage. They enhance their sewing their skills or learn how to sew from scratch, design dresses according to their taste, for their children or for themselves, and even more so, with their work they sometimes also manage to support women in their neighborhood.

It was an emergency. She didn’t have any money to buy clothes for her daughter for Eid

How this support literally materializes I recently heard from Layan, Shyma’s daughter: “There was a woman I know from the place I have studied”, Layan said. “She told me that her job is to clean people’s houses and asked me if I knew someone how needed a cleaning woman. She urgently needed a job, it was an emergency as she didn’t have any money to buy new clothes for her daughter for Eid al-Fitr.”

Eid al-Fitr is the closing evening of Ramadan, which always is a big celebration where people love to dress up in beautiful clothes and to exchange sweets and gifts. To have new clothes isn't only a beautiful tradition but also a way to counter the misery of their daily struggles. "I remembered that my mom has told me that if anyone needed new clothes, we could give them dresses the students have sewn”, Layan continued. “We have so many beautiful dresses, a whole collection, we can pick and choose pieces from. I gave some to the woman and her daughter. And you cannot imagine how happy they were. They cried and were so thankful.”

It’s a big class, there are around 17 women, most of them beginners

Not only the students themselves benefit from “Salt 4 Sewing”, Shyma emphasizes. “But also so many other women and girls in need.” It’s like a stone you throw in the water that creates waves. Tiny ones at first, and as they move on they become bigger and bigger.

One week ago, after Ramadan, a new class started. It will last for six weeks. The atmosphere is cheerful, the students are excited. It’s a big class, there are around 17 women, most of them beginners in the art of sewing. Some of them stand around the table, some even sit on the stairs that lead to the house, a little girl perches on the bench next to her mother. Halima, the teacher, demonstrates how to maintain the sewing machine with a specific oil, while one of the students writes writes some notes on the whiteboard. Soon there will be new dresses in the making - and with them perhaps also new stories.

The new students of the "Salt4Sewing"-class. After the foto shooting they took off their veils.
All pictures taken by Shyma.