Traditionally, shaira wove carpets, sadou bags, talli and khannaga bracelets, and refined products in genuine leather – a few favorite things from Emirati handicraft culture. But just a few years back, finding a ‘sougha from the UAE’–i.e. a gift that a tourist would bring back home–had become nearly impossible in the accelerated pace of cosmopolitan life among glaring, rapidly rising skyscrapers.
Sougha is a social enterprise initiative launched by the Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development in 2009 to preserve cultural heritage and reverse the trend in which traditional skills are being lost. To do so, it empowers local artisans in underdeveloped locations across the country to put their handcrafting skills to good use.
Once unemployable, these older generations of bedouin women now each earn a livelihood and are passing on the heritage of this craftsmanship to their daughters. Working closely with the women to improve their technical and entrepreneurial skills, “Sougha aims to grow the largest base of home-owned micro businesses led by women,” affirms business Operations Manager Qumasha Al Muhairi. “We started with only 7 artisans and now have 400 professionals,” she proudly adds.
Their products can be found at large retailers within the UAE, such as Bloomingdales and Harvey Nichols, in addition to More Cafe, Rotana Hotels and many more stores, outlets and bazaars.
For more info – www.sougha.ae