Yasser Hirbawi opened the Hirbawi Textile Factory in 1961 in Hebron, operating 15 machines and producing 150,000 keffiyehs annually by the early 1990s. Today, due to the signing of the 1993 Oslo Accords and the opening of trade with the outside world, only four machines remain in operation producing a mere 10,000 scarves a year. Not one of these scarves are exported, as overseas suppliers produce mass quantities at a fraction of the price, and the shrinking Palestinian economy and Israeli checkpoints and roadblocks create further hindrances to production and trade for small businesses like Mr. Hirbawi's. In Mr. Hirbawi's own words: "My machines are in good shape. They can start working tomorrow. I just need a market." The Keffiyeh's black and white pattern has come to symbolize the Palestinian struggle; the middle pattern, with its "wire mesh fence" design represents the Israeli occupation, while the oblong-shaped patterns on the side represent olive leaves- a symbol of Palestine and peace.
Gaza camp is a refugee camp near Jerash, where almost 40,000 Palestinian refugees are living. They, their parents or grandparents, fled from Gaza in 1967, when Israel invaded the Gaza strip, which was at that time under Egyptian rule. These Palestinian refugees never received Jordanian citizenship. Until today they don’t have a national number and are therefore stateless. As such, they aren’t allowed to work, don’t have access to regular healthcare, and they can’t afford to further their education outside the camp. If they would like to get a job, they need to buy a working permit of 500 JOD (± € 600), which is only valid for 6 months. So for most people this doesn’t make any sense at all. One cannot understand how these people aren’t offered any way out, no right to return, no status, no opportunities, no future. These Palestinian refugees have lived under inhumane conditions for 50 years now.
Although we were aware that we were visiting one of the poorest camps in Jordan, nobody expected that the refugees struggle this much. We were silenced, speechless, saddened, angry, but above all we felt powerless and were struggling how to relate to this uncomfortable truth. Some felt really depressed, others were fighting with feelings of guilt for not taking enough action, and at the same time we felt unease in being part of a van with international visitors, being dropped at places in the camp to visit, watch and leave. It underlined our privileged position and the bubble we live in.
"In Palestine there are still a lot of factories that make leather objects, but there has been a huge loss in quality. The craftsmen don’t get the good materials, new tools are very hard to come by and there are hardly any opportunity to further develop one’s skills, due to the lack of training facilities and educational opportunities. Even a project as DDFP can’t help us with this. It is neither their objective.
I remember well when suddenly two foreign designers, Moniek Driesse (NL) and David Juan Ortiz (ES) were standing in my studio. They told me that they were participating in a design workshop and that they were looking for a partner to make a wallet. That was a totally new experience to me.
Because of the occupation, it is a real problem for us to export our products. Everything is stopped at the border. But even when I would manage to send my products abroad, I wouldn’t be able to get paid. Israeli laws make it impossible to pay me with Visa or to allow me to receive foreign money transfers. The DDFP platform has helped me to overcome these problems, as they don’t experience the same restrictions for export. They can also collect the money and make payments to me. Unfortunately, for the moment I only have two products in their collection. So the financial impact is yet not very big. I can only hope that DDFP becomes a big company so they can sell and buy a lot of our products. They are quite unique and we need them. To my knowledge there are no other organisations that can support us in selling our products outside Palestine.
I was very happy when I saw my name on the brochure of Disarming Design, together with the products I made. That was a real boost of confidence for me. It strengthened my self-esteem, knowing that I was given the opportunity to let the people know who I am and what I am capable of." (From Kurt Vanbelleghem interview, Can one really benefit from a social design project, or is it just another spin at the wheel?)
Atfaluna Society for Deaf Children, a registered Palestinian NGO located in Gaza city, has been working in the field of deaf education and allied services since 1992. Literally thousands of deaf children and adults and their families are served annually at Atfaluna through deaf education, audiology, speech therapy, income generating programs for the deaf, vocational training, parents', teachers’ and community training and awareness programs, and a host of other services and programs.