At the age of 57, Sawsan Rishmawi has no intention of missing any opportunity. She wants to carry out all the projects that she had to set aside several times in the past. The first and most importantly expanding her production of glass artefacts, work safely and to see her working women rights fulfilled.
In her bright house in Beit Sahour, east of Bethlehem, Sawsan devotes herself to creating objects of various shapes and sizes, from knick-knacks to pendants, lamps and napkin rings, using glass bearing the symbols and colors of her land Palestine. Sawsan works many hours in her house which is surrounded by windows. She takes short breaks to rest her eyes and often looks out of the windows. Her gaze wanders far and imagines a successful future. “After attending the training courses carried out by the Italian funded project – she tells us – I have learned to better organize my time, living intensely the present with its opportunities, but always with a look towards my future. Now I have more confidence in myself and I always have new ideas. I wake up at night and take notes”.
Thanks to the training courses Sawsan discovered the enormous potential of online commerce, she learned to use the camera to document her work and she created a Facebook page. Furthermore, the project has allowed her business to access some e-commerce platforms where to place her products, in a country where the few exports are solely for agricultural products and are mainly directed towards Israel.
“I would like to sell my creations in Europe, even around the world”, she reveals us with a wide smile showing us new trinkets just made with great pride. “During visits or craft fairs – she adds – I realized that Europeans appreciate my work and they buy items for themselves and their families with pleasure, so my works are also and above all addressed to them”.
She also began to take into consideration the risks of the job of those who like her work and break glass. In short, she has become aware of the market. Her way of organizing the work has completely changed: she now analyzes the demand first and only then realizes the products, makes a business plan on an annual basis and not a seasonal one, as it used to be in the beginning.
The Decent Work Program, funded by the Italian cooperation and implemented by UNWomen and ILO, has allowed her to develop the awareness to aspire to decent working conditions and has also given her the proper equipment for her business such as a machine to work glass safely.
Her life is full of love, she has a husband, four children, two sisters, but personal fulfillment and access to the world of work have given her the balance and strength that she displays during our meeting.
“My husband has always been present, stable, generous and has always supported me, encouraged me, since my first steps in this work, when I started training fifteen years ago in a cultural center in Bethlehem” – tells us Sawsan – “He has always helped. He is the one who takes care with fervent diligence of household chores “. Sawsan is lucky. She has a husband who helps her and supports her. It is indeed different for those who cannot count on a support network when they try to engage to entrepreneurial activities and cannot fully and solely take care of their family only.
When Sawsan got married, she sewed clothes and tablecloths, but she did it only to earn some money and contribute to the family income. Now it’s different. Working with glass is a personal challenge and demands creativity nand sense of aesthetic, it’s a form of art.
“In the beginning the trainers did not appreciate the artifacts I did, but I did not give up and it is thanks to the Italian funded project that I realized I had to pursue this path. Since then I have continued to work, without ever stopping, fighting against time” she explains, with a bright gleam in her eyes.
Time is worth more than gold, says an ancient saying. And that’s what Sawsan thinks, that today, not only she has awakened her creativity, but has become an entrepreneur and proves it every day: she takes notes, talks on the phone, lists the material to buy, the costs to be incurred, then she creates her products and plans attendance to the exhibitions, always with a long term perspective. Before saying goodbye she says with a smile: “I will become rich and famous”.