The Bedouins, indigenous inhabitants of the Negev desert in the south of the country, number today between 180,000-190,000 people.
Most of this population lives in extremely precarious and challenging conditions. According to National Insurance Institute (NII) statistics, Bedouin localities make up 6 out of the 7 poorest localities in the country, and their unemployment rates are by far the highest in the country, reaching up to 80% in many villages. Poverty in the unrecognized villages stands at 79%, and 61% in recognized villages, figures which are comparable to and sometimes higher than countries of the Global South.
Sidreh’s target population are a multi-faceted representation of the female Bedouin community, yet whether they are involved with Sidreh for literacy, empowerment, weaving or entrepreneurship training they all face the same critical issue—a dearth of economic development in the Bedouin localities in the Negev. The lack of commercial activity and employment opportunities coupled with a restrictive society that limits the physical mobility of the women means there are limited options for the improvement of quality of life. This dire situation necessitates the promotion of income generation, and asset building strategies that are both accessible and in line with the tradition and particularities of the Bedouin community and its women in particular.
This weaving craft is part of the Bedouin heritage, and our design for ground looms has been in use by the Bedouin population for close to 4,000 years. Throughout their history, Bedouin women have been the story-tellers, poets, song-writers and embroiderers, spinners and weavers. When we lived in tents, Bedouin women wove the tent itself, one for winter made with goat’s hair, and a summer tent from camel hair. . Bedouin women also wove carpets, belts and other items used in both public and private life. The tradition passed from mother to daughter within families and clans.