“People who love sewing don’t just want to sew. We have a passion that we have to nourish. Any human with a passion they cannot nourish, it will disappear.”

Zenah at Hope Workshop

Zenah has been passionate about sewing since she was a young girl living in Baghdad. “When I was little, my mom would buy fabric for the seamstress. She’d buy extra fabric, a quarter meter, and bring it me to sew for my dolls.” Zenah made dresses and shirts, sewing with a needle and thread, teaching herself. “I remember my uncle telling my mother: ‘your daughter will become a seamstress.’” When Zenah made first in her class in grade 3, her mother decided to buy her a sewing machine. “I still sew on this machine until now,” she says. “I have a second machine, but I’ve seen so many wonderful things with this one.”

 

As Zenah became older, she began sewing for her female cousins. ‘When models would show up on TV my friends would take pictures and call me to say, ‘Quick! Turn on this channel and look at this model!’ Once I saw it, it was in my brain, and I could sew it; I didn’t need to work with patterns.” 

 

“One day,’ she continues, “we were sitting and my cousin said to me: 

‘Why don’t you sew for other people?’

I said: ‘What? That’s shameful. Sewing for other people?’

‘There’s good money,’ my cousin said. ‘And you have this passion.”

So Zenah tried it; people liked her sewing, and soon she opened up her own shop. 

 

In 2004, however, events in Baghdad forced her to move to Jordan, and Zenah left the shop behind. Since moving to Amman, she’s worked in several sewing factories but says she’s never felt comfortable or enjoyed the work. “You always work and at the end of the month, they tell you there’s no money… Working at factories,” she adds, “they just give you a piece, and tell you to put it together. It’s not a piece you get to be creative with, that you cut how you want, that you can be artistic with.”

Zenah hard at work measuring material!

In January of this year, she joined Hope Workshop where she says she enjoys the work. “Here it’s different than what I have at home. At home I sew clothes, but these are new ideas, things I haven’t seen before…”  She adds, “What’s beautiful… the cooperation between us is. The young learn from the old and the old from the young. Time goes by very quickly. Most importantly,” she says, “it allows me to nourish my passion.”