The crafts also made an ap­pear­ance at Alta Roma fash­ion week last July

Friday - - In The Uae -

some­thing to do when she wakes up in the morn­ing. It makes them feel young again! And of course they are get­ting a salary. Some of the women don’t need the money but do it just to keep them mo­ti­vated.’

These women have been mak­ing tal­lis at home for years but there is al­ways more to learn. Mum-of-12 Fa­tima Sawi has been work­ing at the cen­tre since it opened. She is orig­i­nally from Egypt and has been in the UAE for 40 years. She says: ‘I have been mak­ing the talli for 40 years and I do many other crafts too – I even make lo­tion. I have 12 chil­dren, so I wake up at 4am ev­ery day so I can get them ready and clean the house be­fore start­ing to make the talli. I love com­ing to the cen­tre and I have got so fast now, I’m mak­ing the tal­lis like a ma­chine!”

Fa­tima also vis­its lo­cal schools to teach chil­dren how to make her hand­i­crafts. She doesn’t do it for the money, but be­cause she wants younger gen­er­a­tions to know what women have been do­ing for decades.

Sha­reefa ex­plains how many of the women are teach­ing each other and en­cour­ag­ing them to try new types of talli. ‘We have one lady who is an ex­pert and she trains all the oth­ers, as she is so good. She gives them mo­ti­va­tion. At first some ladies are re­luc­tant to try new ideas but once they try, they re­alise they can [do it].’

Moza Saif Al Muhairi has a talli named after her. ‘I am the only one mak­ing this type of talli, so we have called it the Moza. I have been mak­ing tal­lis for 25 years but since I joined the cen­tre I have learnt how to make ten more types. Now I can teach my mother, as she once taught me. My fam­ily are very happy with what I have achieved.’

While the fash­ion an­gle and in­ter­na­tional suc­cess is a fo­cus of the cen­tre there is much more suc­cess com­ing from this pro­gramme. Many of these women were un­able to speak English when they joined the pro­gramme, and through com­mu­ni­cat­ing with oth­ers they are learn­ing. When she be­gan, Say­eeda Sayed Arif could not speak any English; to­day she speaks well enough to have a chat with me. ‘My friends taught me English since I have been com­ing to the cen­tre,’ she says. ‘I re­ally en­joy com­ing here – it’s good for all the ladies be­cause we feel like part of a fam­ily. Time here passes very fast.’

It’s not just their lan­guage that’s im­prov­ing, adds Sha­reefa; the women’s con­fi­dence has grown since the cen­tre opened. ‘At first, the women were very shy. They wouldn’t speak to any­one or have their pic­ture taken as they were wor­ried what oth­ers might think. Now they are ex­cited to have their pic­ture taken and tell peo­ple what they are do­ing. I even have a lady who only has one eye and she is mak­ing in­cred­i­ble tal­lis. She is amaz­ing.’

After tak­ing care of 12 kids, Fa­tima Sawi finds the time to make talli as well as teach the craft to oth­ers

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