MEET THE SEP ARTIST SERIES - 1. The story of Asma
Posted on September 12 2021
Written by Emmy Plaschy, emmy·in·the·mix
On a warm summer afternoon, I had the chance to meet and sit down with some of the artists who put magic into fabrics, embroidering century-old intricate patterns with dedication and passion, one stitch at a time. All of them live in the Gaza refugee camp in Jerash, Jordan. Life is not always easy to say the least, but they have mastered the art of looking at life through the eye of a child: with authenticity, vulnerability and a great sense of humour. Welcome to their world!
Emmy: What do you do?
Asma: I am the quality control supervisor at SEP, I have been working there since 2013.
Emmy: How many children do you have?
Emmy: Can you share a little bit about your life?
Asma: I was born in the camp and I went to the UNRWA primary school there.
I have seen how the camp has evolved: the school used to be full of asbestos for many years, before it was renovated by the UNRWA. Also, there used to be no cement nor tarmac on the streets!
I went to the national school in Jerash, I also took a course provided by the UNRWA in the camp to learn how to sew, it was affordable. I went to university but I could not pursue it because of the cost.
Then I got married. We used to live in the same house as my husband’s extended family at the beginning of our marriage. You had to be fast to get some food from the table! (editor’s note: a humorous way to say that often, there wasn’t enough food for everyone). I started wondering if life was always going to be this way. I also started to feel social pressure to have many children. At the time, there was a lack of awareness on how to raise a family in a healthy way, which for me resulted in health issues.
Emmy: What is your experience with the world of work?
Asma: When I got married, I did not work but I was taking care of all the housework. My husband was working as a builder inside the camp. He was offered a job outside, but the cost of transportation made it not worth it. This is when I knew that I had to help him financially because of the many expenses we had for our children.
I started with a small catering business as well as sewing. But the main problem was to be able to sell quantity to be able to make enough money out of it.
Emmy: What is your story with SEP?
Asma: When I met Roberta (editor’s note: SEP’s founder), I felt it was a worthwhile project from the beginning. And my situation changed for the better.
At the beginning, there were 6 women working, with a need to level up their sewing skills. Roberta then decided to open an academy to teach ladies the art of embroidery.
As I coordinate the artist’s schedules according to their skills and depending on our orders, I get many calls from women looking for work. This was especially true during corona. I have the responsibility to provide them with a job, and as it is not always the case, it can create tensions. I need more orders so I can distribute it to all the women who need to work!
Emmy: Is there a picture you like and want to talk about?
Asma: There are two pictures, actually!
I live outside the camp, I have a land there and started building a house. There were leaks that needed fixing. Thankfully SEP gave me an advance that I am able to repay in instalments. I walk a lot (see the picture I took on the road), but the long distance means it takes a lot of time to reach the workshop! You can see the workshop at the bottom of the love-heart:
One day, a SEP Artist needed to send over a piece she had finished embroidering, so she sent her son to deliver it to us, he came on the back of a donkey! That’s him on the picture.
Emmy: What do you wish for the future?
Asma: I would like to buy a car and finish furnishing my house, as well as pay for my children’s education.
Want to know more about the Gaza refugee camp? Find its story here.
Article by emmy·in·the·mix.