The commitment of Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, Wife of His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah, Chairperson of NAMA Women Advancement Establishment and Founder and Royal Patron of its affiliate Irthi Contemporary Crafts Council, to keep the UAE’s rich traditional crafts alive were honoured in a panel discussion held on August 31.

Organised by Irthi Contemporary Crafts Council (Irthi) in collaboration with Sharjah Institute for Heritage (SIH), the activity paid tribute to Her Highness’s work in preserving the UAE’s culture and heritage for forthcoming generations.

In addition to bringing to the fore HH Sheikha Jawaher’s ongoing efforts to conserve the rich Emirati heritage, the discussion paid tribute to the recent achievements of the council’s members under her aegis that culminated in the launch of its first international product line in collaboration with luxury brand Asprey London. The innovative partnership showcased the traditional Emirati craft known as ‘Talli’ in a collection of exclusive limited edition designer leather handbags.

Held at SIH in conjunction with the institute’s Emirati Women’s Day celebrations, the panel discussion was attended by HE Abdulaziz Almusallam, Chairman of SIH; Azza Sharif, Senior Executive at Irthi; Lina Hamdan, Strategy Senior Manager at Sharjah Business Women’s Council and Emirati craftswomen working under the umbrella of Irthi’s Bidwa Social Development Programme, who contributed to realising the council’s recent successes.

The talks lauded HH Sheikha Jawaher Al Qasimi’s unfailing leadership and support in enabling Emirati women working in the field of traditional crafts to develop their skills and promote their products in international markets. The goals sought by the Bidwa programme were also highlighted during the session, where a number of craftswomen shared their experiences in applying the traditional Talli craft and creating bespoke international designs. The talented artisans present at the event underscored the contribution of Irthi’s Bidwa programme in channelling their skills into profitable enterprises, generating a sustainable source of income for them.

“Through such seminars and panel discussions we aim to introduce our women artisans and highlight their achievements for being a source of pride for us as they turn traditional craftsmanship into successful careers. We are proud of the women who have innovatively incorporated their craft into the designs of the most prestigious fashion schools in Italy and Great Britain. Some of these women have left their marks on the products of premium international fashion brands, including Asprey London,” said HE Ameera BinKaram, Vice-Chairperson of NAMA Women Advancement Establishment.

Referring to the variety of roles played by women in the UAE, HE Abdulaziz Almusallam remarked; “Working women who stand alongside their male partners shoulder a large portion of the national responsibility.” Further emphasising the added advantage of women finding career paths in their cultural roots, he said: “Women are the first and most important source of learning for their children and in this undertaking are passing our rich cultural heritage on to their children in a natural and beautiful manner.”

Almusallam praised HH Sheikha Jawaher Al Qasimi’s pivotal role in empowering UAE’s women professionally and financially. He also hailed the positive results achieved by Irthi in a short span of time, especially in turning traditional craftsmanship into a sustainable source of income for craftswomen and also contributing towards improving their quality of work and supporting their small businesses.