Weaving the Threads of Success
The Bani Hamida Mountain is located in the central part of the Kingdom, in the Governorate of Madaba, at a distance of 35 km from Madaba City and 80 km from the capital Amman.
The Bani Hamida area of the Madaba Governorate is an impoverished and remote part of the Kingdom which suffers from high levels of unemployment and out-migration. Additionally, the area, which is composed of sporadic settlements and population groups, is underdeveloped and lacks public services and private development initiatives.
Problems and Challenges Facing the Bani Hamida Area:
- There are poor public transportation systems that reach the area, contributing to its isolated state. There is also a lack of roads that connect the area with the Dead Sea, and Ma'in and Qusaib resorts.
- Inhabitants rely on septic tanks, which are emptied by hired trucks to dispose of liquid waste.
- The area is connected to the national power grid; however, residents suffer from frequent electricity outages.
- The area is connected to the Ministry of Water and irrigation’s potable water supply network; however, this water supply is intermittent, and inhabitants sometimes purchase supplemental supplies from tanker trucks. Although there are several springs in the area, the inhabitants are not allowed to use them.
- Polygamy is common and social status is low.
- The area lacks sufficient health care facilities and specialized doctors, and is served by a primary health center in Al Areed, in addition to two other secondary health centers. The nearest hospital is in Madaba City, approximately 35 km away.
- There is a high rate of out-migration: in the last 30 years, more than 2000 inhabitants left the area due to its remoteness and severe economic situation.
- There is a lack of recreational facilities.
Economic Problems Facing the Area:
- High unemployment rates
- Lack of a market place. The closest market is approximately 35 Km away, which makes marketing agricultural and handicraft products extremely difficult.
- Lack of income generating activities for men, women and youth in the area. Employment opportunities are very limited.
- Lack of agricultural roads, rangeland and forages.
- Unavailability of vocational training opportunities.
- According to the Social Development Directorate, 148 families receive social aid.
- Youth, generally an important sector in the work force, are forced to leave the area due to its remoteness, difficult economic situation, and lack of job opportunities.
Threads of the Future
The Bani Hamida Women’s Weaving Project was launched by Save the Children in 1987, and merged with the Jordan River Foundation in 1998. Bringing prosperity to an otherwise impoverished region, the Project revived and marketed traditional Bedouin weaving practices, helping to maintain the social fabric of the Makawir area and contributing to the betterment of its families’ living standards.
Using home-made floor looms and wooden spindles, the Project rejuvenated the unique warp-faced flat weave in pure wool, along with the colors and particular designs representing Jordan’s unrivalled traditional rug making. When commercially introduced, the rugs were an instant hit and created a unique image for the Bani Hamida Mountain and its women. As the project progressed throughout the years, it has now become the largest and most renowned rug weaving project in Jordan and its neighboring countries.
Since inception, the Project has employed 24 full-time employees, and has benefited over 1650 wage-based women. Over JD1.5 million has been paid to spinners, weavers and dyers who produce these superior quality pure wool rugs that travel the world with a “Handmade With Pride by Bedouin Jordanian Women” label.
The overall impact of the Project on these women and their community has been monumental and clearly evident in their homes, their well-being and on the future of their children, who can now pursue secondary and university educations. Moreover, these women have become independent, and more confident as a result of this project, and are socially accepted in their community as working women.
Halima Al-Qa'aydeh, the Project’s 37-year old manager, is a success story, and has been acclaimed by national and international development agencies, appearing in countless TV documentaries and is the mention of many press articles. Cameras have followed her on daily trips in her white pickup truck as she travels between the Center and weavers’ homes, discussing the latest orders, designs and color schemes. While challenges remain, Halima has also become a leader in her community, and she was recently elected as one of the six women who were nationally elected to local councils in recent municipal elections.
JRF has been working with the women of Bani Hamida to seek other means and opportunities to increase the number of project beneficiaries. And as a result, in 2003, the Foundation was able to obtain a grant from Citigroup that provided seed money for a candle-making project that was put into effect at the Bani Hamida Mountain. The Project’s marketing strategy is based on research that proved that candles which are hand-made with ingredients indigenous to the area out-glow cheaper mass-produced ones.
Through its Rural Community Cluster Development Program, the Foundation was also able to successfully respond to some of the prevailing difficulties facing Bani Hamida local community members, by building a Service Complex that includes a market place, bus stop, storage space and offices for the local cooperative.