by Nebras Maslamani
During the Coronavirus lockdown, the ABIF team tried to keep the ABIF on track by undertaking as much work as possible from their homes – the lockdown in Jordan being much stricter than that in the UK. During that time, more than 50 Bedouin women from Faynan applied to become members of the new Faynan Heritage Women’s Cooperative (FHWC), that only has space for 25. The opportunity to meet and interview the applicants only arose when the Jordanian government eased its lockdown regulations at end of May 2020. This enabled the ‘Archaeology into Business in Faynan’ (ABIF) project team to visit Faynan and Greigra. Some of the Bedouin families had already left the area for the summer to find cooler conditions elsewhere, and so the ABIF team was only able to meet thirty-three women face-to-face. They conducted phone interviews with the remaining applicants. This led to 25 women being selected as the first members of the FHWC, representing the five tribes living around Faynan and Greigra.
One of ABIF project outcomes is for the FHWC to reserve the copyright of all the products to be manufactured and to ensure that the income from their sale continues to go directly to the women after ABIF project completion. To enable the cooperative to be managed in this manner a Board of seven women was appointed. These women were selected on their management skills and experience, community recommendations, and face-to-face interviews. Some of them have also been appointed as ‘community influencers’ to support the project for which they receive a monthly stipend for a short term. The legal establishment of FHWC could take up to six months due to the governmental procedures that must be undertaken.
Regarding the training that ABIF project will deliver, the twenty-five selected women will be divided into two groups: a management team and the handicrafts production team. Selected aspects of the training will be given to all the women, so that all cooperative members get background in both, handicrafts and management skills. Only the handicrafts group will receive the extensive handicrafts training to produce high-quality handmade products. It is hoped that these women will be able to train others as the cooperative expands.
The women of Faynan and Greigra have explained the need for more and an extension for ABIF project so that it can benefit more women in the region by generating income for their families. The ABIF team hopes this will be possible and looking for additional sources of funding.