Bethlehem Arab Women’s Union:
The Arab Women’s Union in Bethlehem is a non-profit charitable, social and cultural society, founded in 1947 in Bethlehem. Its first mission was to support needy Palestinian women by providing them jobs that allowed them to have a decent life. The Union aims to promote and support local handicrafts, together with Palestinian Folklore and culinary tradition, offering help to needy women and children. The society, which leads numerous activities and cultural centers, manages an Embroidery Centre, started in 1968 with the goal of providing work for disadvantaged women and to preserve traditional embroidery skills, an integral part of Bethlehem culture and heritage. The embroidery patterns are drawn from the ornate designs of traditional dress, and are adapted to modern items as pillows, wallets, purses and accessories.
The women who embroider are trained at the Center and receive the raw materials, as threads and canvas, to work at home. This enables them to balance work alongside care of their families and homes, empowering them inside and outside their families.
Most of our beautiful runners and mats are made by 100 women working at home, bringing the work to be washed and finished at BAWU by 2 staff working there. Formed to cope with medical emergencies during the invasion of 1947, it now promotes Palestinian food, arts and crafts, marketing items with strict quality control ensuring sustainable development.
They aim to provide work opportunities for poor people in the Bethlehem area. Lack of tourism has resulted in a severe drop in sales and marketing is severely limited as travel permits to Jerusalem are rarely given. BAWU maintains a Folklore Museum. Their charitable work is very diminished through lack of donations; however, like other Palestinians, the women involved prefer work to charity: “When you give work to people you give them life and courage and produce peace.”
A Palcrafts grant in 2006 was used for a fax machine, sewing machine and product labels. In 2016 our grant gave them a computer and professional printer.