A varied group of women of all ages are sitting on small wooden stools while weaving baskets. Among them wanders tirelessly the slender figure, dressed in a long dress and scarf, of Wahiba Hajirat. An energetic woman from Kufr Manda, Wahiba moves from one student to another, reviewing and correcting the students' work with endless patience.
Established at the initiative of Sindyanna of Galilee, this group is part of the basket weaving project operating at WAC center in Kufr Manda. Its aim is to enable Arab women to specialize in the art of basket weaving and sell their products for profit. This activity conveys an essential message to the Arab society: every woman has a right to make a living.
Wahiba (29), mother of three, participated in the first basket weaving course launched two and a half years ago in Kufr Manda. "From the very beginning stood out for her remarkable motivation and artistic skills", notes Ronit Pan, basket weaving teacher and coordinator of Sindyanna's project. "The baskets she weaves have a special beauty and an artistic touch, driving her students to try to emulate her. The baskets she makes match ones made by veteran weavers. This is why when it became possible to open a new course for beginners, Wahiba was naturally chosen to be the teacher, and to immerse her students in the tricks of the craft."
Since November 2008, Wahiba has been teaching a group of women at the weaving project in WAC center. Together with her students, she has created and implemented a gradual, detailed learning process, bringing them to excellent performance levels and instilling a serious approach to basket weaving. "I am proud of my capability to contribute and to teach others. Thanks to this project I learned to take responsibility, and it also helped me and other women enter the labour market. I would like to continue teaching and expand this project by enabling other women to enter this market as well".
Wahiba, the youngest daughter among 10 siblings, graduated from high school with a full matriculation. She loved studying, sciences in particular-chemistry and biology-but the financial situation at home did not allow her to continue her studies and acquire a higher education. At 19 she married Ibrahim Hajirat, and at 23 already had three children. Now that they have grown a bit older she has time for herself as well. Encouraged by her husband she became one of the pillars of the basket project.
"Weaving is not just a way of making a living but also of expressing myself. Through weaving I became acquainted with an entire world of art I did not know before".
Gradually, weaving became intertwined in Wahiba's life. The changeover to teaching was a stage in her development as an artist: "weaving for myself is easy but teaching and ensuring that students know how to weave is not simple at all. I am attracted to teaching and consider it a challenge. This is also a means of getting more women to participate in the project.
"The bond established between my students and I is very positive and amicable. I had prior acquaintance with some of them, and the rest I first met on the course. All my students are exposed for the very first time to the craft of basket weaving. Most of them were successful at learning the techniques, and those who did not, dropped out. Soon I will be finishing the second course of weaving with a small but qualified group of 7 women, who I hope will continue their activity at the project and will use their skills to contribute to society".