The Coronavirus crisis continues to affect lives across the globe, and governments struggle to strike a balance between curtailing the virus and minimizing the damage to the economy. In Palestine, authorities face the same dilemma. Yet, their means are limited due to the lack of adequate healthcare facilities and financial resources to support newly-unemployed or struggling businesses.
One Palestinian district in particular has been greatly affected by Covid - with the highest number of cases in the West Bank, the Hebron district continues to deal with the heavy blow. Three of Sunbula’s partner artisan groups are located in satellite villages near Hebron city (the district’s bustling economic center for commerce and manufacturing), and are facing difficulties in their craft production.
Artisans in Hebron
Surif Women’s Cooperative and Idna Ladies Association provide embroidery and sewing work to women in the villages of Surif and Idna respectively, while Jelld is a youth-led social enterprise in the village of Dura and specializes in leather products. In these rural communities where there are limited employment opportunities for women and youths, the income earned by these artisans are vital to their families.
Being cottage industries that operate on shoe-string budgets, the three groups often pay out wages and expenses with what they earn from month to month. During the lockdown from March to May, when Sunbula’s shop in Jerusalem was closed and no product sales were made, the groups’ liquidity dried up completely and their most urgent concern was about the much-delayed wages they owed their staff and artisans.
Thankfully in June, Sunbula obtained small grants* to help the most vulnerable of our partners with liquidity. The three groups were able to pay part of their outstanding wages and had planned to purchase the materials needed to restart craft production.
However, they were met with a few hurdles. The market in Hebron city, where craft-making materials like fabric and thread were sold, remained shut because of the rising number of Covid-19 cases. Moreover, when the artisans managed to obtain the materials needed, it was difficult to deliver the finished products because public transportation between communities was suspended in order to stop the spread of the virus.
Nevertheless, the artisans persevered, and their products finally arrived at our shop in July!
Restarting Craft Production
Restarting our fair trade business cycle has breathed new life into our artisan groups’ livelihoods in Hebron. However, craft production activities are resuming only at a fraction of pre-pandemic levels due to the drop in the sales. As the economic crisis prolongs, local businesses are facing ever-mounting difficulties to continue operating. Our three partners in Hebron and across Palestine are still in great need of liquidity.
For the month of August, we are running a crowdfunding campaign to help provide direct aid to our artisan groups, and your support would mean the world to them. All proceeds will go towards supporting them with the liquidity needed to sustain operations and the cost of keeping our fair trade shop open.
*Sunbula thanks Aliph Foundation and Raymond Davis Foundation for their generous, timely support
Coronavirus in Palestine: Daily updates and latest data by the Palestinian National Authority Ministry of Health (in Arabic)