“I was in a coma and I came back to life; now I am respected, my children and grandchildren visit me and I can provide for them.”
These are some of the testimonies Aghadeer Jweihan, director of the Princess Taghrid Institute recalled of the women beneficiaries of the Pure Felt Jordan project, conducted by the institute in collaboration with the Swiss association Pure Felt.
The project, launched in 2016 in Ghor Fifa in southern Jordan, aims to empower marginalised jobless women by safeguarding continued employment and income through the creation of traditional “felt” textile crafts.
“Because Ghor Fifa is based on a seasonal agriculture, most women can only find jobs during those seasons. Their jobs and income are not sustainable during the rest of the year”,” said founder and Chairman of Pure Felt Switzerland Dianne Schepers.
Twenty-six previously unemployed women from Ghor Fifa and Amman were recently trained to the creative technique of felting, through a seven-module course that included felting, dyeing, personal finance, project management, communication and presentation, marketing, finance and organisation, according to Jweihan.
Divided into two groups — the felters and the wool preparers — the participants learned to make use of the wool of the local Awassi sheeps, which they scoured and dyed to create some art pieces designed by Schepers.
Thriteen of these felt artworks and installations are currently on display at the Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts, offering the visitors an atypical sensory experience through pieces of all shapes and forms open for the public to touch.
With Pure Felt Jordan, 18 previously jobless women aged between 41 and 73 years old were trained to become wool preparers, carders, spinners, weavers and dyers, while eight young women of the institute in Amman and four ladies in Ghor Fifa were trained and employed as professional felters.
Most of these women are part of what Schepers called “the forgotten age group”, being widows, grandmothers, most of them over 40 years of age.
“This project truly changed their lives. These women have been growing, they are stronger, independent, and have their self worth back”,” Jweihan told The Jordan Times at the institute.
Among the felters from the institute, several women suffer from physical disabilities. “They are some of the most talented felters and carders in the project”,” Jweihan said, noting that they have developed a special connection to the fibre of wool, which magnified their natural talent.
“Pure Felt is an important project that makes use of the local natural resources to produce beautiful, sustainable and meaningful creations”,” Jwaihan said, stressing that the project also helps revive the traditional craft of felting.
“Because this initiative is kind of ‘out of the box’, it is quite challenging to sustain it”,” the director said, noting that they have now expanded to create more practical felt pieces including rugs, pots, table cloths to increase the products’ outreach.
“I have a lot of hope for this project; you should see these women at work; they truly put their soul into it. They are instilling life into the pieces”,” Jwaihan concluded.