A famous African proverb states: “If you educate a man you educate an individual, but if you educate a woman you educate a nation.”
That quote also was used by Ieasha Prime, director of women’s programs at Dar-Al-Hijra, to describe the graduating class of the 8th semester of the mosque’s Sewing Academy.
The latest class comprised of 12 women. In addition to certificates, each graduate received a Singer Start 1304 sewing machine, which virtually assures them access to a tool to building on their success.
Islamic Relief USA helped launch the sewing course in 2014, when it awarded it a $10,000 grant. Within two weeks of the grant, Prime said the program was up and running.
The organization also provided funding this year.
As a symbol of the graduates’ accomplishments, each student wore dresses they made themselves. Officials in charge of the sewing program said it is about more than just making things to wear. It’s about development in its many forms – social, economical, psychological, and educational.
Prime said the sewing academy is an example of a women’s empowerment program, one that makes them “more strong, more powerful, and more competent.”
This type of empowerment is very refreshing. Empowerment isn’t just demonstrated by mobilizing and marching in the streets. The sewing academy is a quiet way to build up self-esteem, self-confidence, marketable skills, and bring about positive change on a mass scale.
With the sewing program, the women have now obtained a skill they can continue to hone and, if they desire, make it as a source of livelihood.
At least two graduates – Daovia Idris, 38, of Algeria, and Hanadi Mohammed, 45, of Sudan – said they plan to continue pursuing sewing, at least recreationally.
Moreover, they credited the program and their very patient instructor, Fatima Mhemdi, for fostering a bond among the students and improving their skill set as the weeks went by.
“We all became friends,” Idris said.
Both acknowledged there were a lot of growing pains, particularly learning how to insert a thread inside the eye of the needle. Eventually, they got the hang of it.
Mhemdi echoed the graduates’ sentiments.
“I felt like they were my family,” she said. “This class was one of the best.”
On one of the tables stood many of the items they created: blouses, aprons, shirts with furry sleeves, shirts with lace patterns, knit caps, oven mitts, even sport duffle bags.
Even though they have completed the program, they will still be part of the Dar Al Hijra community. Many of the women plan to use the computer lab to help craft a business and marketing strategy for their future wares.
Imam Naeem Mohammed Baig, who is the outreach director at the mosque, said with women making up the majority of the workforce around the world. it’s essential they are provided with relevant skill development classes.
By all appearances, the Sewing Academy is an excellent example of that. As Prime said of the graduates, they are now “participants in the global academy.”