By Sahrish Ali
Rowaida Al Fadl established Aydeena in 2010 as a nonprofit organization. Her daughter, Nour Serafi, is taking charge of the company now since her mother passed away. Nour tells Destination Jeddah about her mother’s vision.
Rowaida wanted to create something that would benefit her country while making a difference in supporting, encouraging and improving job opportunities for deserving female artisans.
Her goal was to introduce Saudi culture to others through local craftsmanship. Therefore all profits support the continuation of the store and are given back to the communities of the craftswomen that will help these women live better lives.
Rowaida Al Fadl would go to Rabat areas where women centers were built. She would then train the women and have their work displayed for Aydeena. So far, through Aydeena, the women have been able to generate income and their goods were exposed to a wider audience. Being part of Aydeena store has given their work credibility.
“Aydeena has three main project lines. One is through training women artisans in handicrafts such as pottery, painting and sewing. The other is by creating products Aydeena believes the market needs such as our Umrah bags. Thirdly, is by simply promoting and displaying the women’s work in the shop.
Women at Aydeena go through a training process to develop their skills, and every product is labeled with the maker’s name. Once it’s sold, the maker is paid.
Our general view is for people to buy the product not only because of the context in which they were made, but because they exude good quality. So we try to encourage innovation and therefore creating original products and not just copying what is out there in the market.
We participate in most of the large bazaars and festivals in Saudi to expose Aydeena to a wider audience. We produced bags for guests at one of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) conferences, and it was one of the best business deals. This gave the women a guarantee of their items being sold as opposed to waiting for them to sell at stores.
We’re launching a new line in Ramadan. I want to do travel bags, the ones with different compartments. I haven’t seen any with a bit of a Saudi twist to them; they’re very useful.
A huge obstacle Aydeena faces is customer’s understanding of NPO’s and local handmade goods. They assume that just because women make it, it should be cheap. On the contrary we don’t have economies of scale on our side, as we don’t buy things in bulks.
As people are becoming more aware of social responsibility and its true meaning, several initiatives are collaborating and opening up more to collaborating instead of focusing on their own achievements and glory.
Social media, the Internet and word of mouth are ways in which people can discover different initiatives running in Jeddah. What would help is to have a database of deserving families and communities in different districts.
Aydeena’s future plan is to become the leading store that provides works of female artisans as souvenirs to foreign guests at events.”
The first product my mom came up with and created herself was the Umrah bag. — Nour Serafi
Some of the artisans were present to give their own views on Aydeena.
They are as follows:
Rowaida came to us and she used to help us create products. This was about four years ago. We were the first group of girls at Aydeena. I started with sewing projects and later hand made products.
I’ve learned how to transfer designs I like from a computer to a sewing machine. We all learn from each other in our community in Rabat. Abla Rowaida used to give us great ideas on how to create new products. We all had a great connection with her and her passion was inspiring. I always wanted to learn how to use a sewing machine and Rowaida made it happen. She got us a trainer, a computer to create different designs and a sewing machine.
I pray for Rowaida and hope to develop my skills more with Aydeena.
I started working with Aydeena a couple of years ago. I happened to pass by the store and it really fascinated me. I met with Rowaida and she asked me to show her some of my samples. I mainly make prayer garments with traditional designs. Faizah, the store manager, contacted me and told me to make the products every few weeks. So I make them in batches. This keeps me active and I’m giving back to the community.
I met Rowaida at a social entrepreneurship conference and she asked me to come work with her. At first I thought it was just a regular shop, but later I came to know more about the vision. I love her dream, which became Aydeena, and I want to be with it as it continues to progress.