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US: Palestinian clothing in spotlight on Women’s Day

Date of publication: 11 March, 2015

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Feature: The Palestinian American Women’s Association marked International Women’s Day with a display of traditional Palestinian clothing and craftwork.

American women and girls of Palestinian origin featured proinently with their traditional embroidered clothing during an event run by the Palestinian American Women's Association [PAWA] of Southern California to mark International Women's day on 7 March.

The traditional Palestinian clothing on display included hand embroidered gowns, handbags, scarves and hair accessories.

PAWA's Sana Ibrahim told al-Araby al-Jadeed, wearing traditional dress in events sends the message that "Palestinian clothing is very important for us because it is an essential part of our heritage and wearing it shows we are holding on to our identity and culture. Today we want to celebrate all aspects of our culture."

A vital role

We have to carry these women's messages ... this will preserve our culture and history.

- Sana Ibrahim

Ibrahim said women had played a vital role in Palestinian culture and that their voices have been heard since the 1920s.

"Today we have to carry these women's messages and preserve them because this will preserve our culture and history," she said. "We are gathering today to honour the role of women in the Arab and Palestinian community here in the US."

American-Palestinian Bayan Awwad, who attended, told al-Araby that Palestinian women do not wear traditional garb in events just to look beautiful. "We want to show we are interested and love our heritage. We also want to encourage the Palestinian embroidery industry."

She added, "I got this dress I am wearing from Palestine. I personally love to choose between the different types of dresses there. The prices differ according to design and the way they are made, the price of a machine-made dress is $150 and the price of handmade dresses are between $120 and $500."

Mona Abu Sir wore a beautiful dress made from the material of a Palestinian keffiyeh. "I wore a traditional Palestinian dress in last year's event, so this year I wore something totally different, but at the same time inspired by beautiful Palestinian heritage," she said. "This dress is made from keffiyeh material, which is a symbol our cause."

Traditional dance and artwork

Many figures spoke at the event including head of the PAWA Samira Saud and Professor Helga Tawil-Souri. The Ensemble Juthoor (Roots) gave a dabke (Palestinian tradition dance) performance and there was a corner for the art work of Palestinian-born artist Ibrahim al-Nashashibi and Palestinian handicrafts and embroidery brought by Hala Ibrahim especially for the event.

This dress is made from keffiyeh material, which is a symbol our cause.
- Mona Abu Sir

PAWA was set up three decades ago by a group of women in California. The Association focuses on helping women and young people in the Arab-American community and in Palestine.

Thanks to support from members of the community, PAWA grants 75 university scholarships to Palestinian women in Palestine and also the Rachel Corrie Scholarship, which sends a local female activist each summer to Birzeit University on an exchange programme to learn about Palestine.

The Association also supports Palestinian famers and craftsmen by selling Palestinian olive oil and decorative ceramics made in Hebron.

This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.

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