The Saudi startup that’s taking a creative approach to humanitarian work

The Saudi startup that’s taking a creative approach to humanitarian work
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Bab Boutique was established in 2016. (Supplied)
The Saudi startup that’s taking a creative approach to humanitarian work
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Updated 03 December 2020

The Saudi startup that’s taking a creative approach to humanitarian work

The Saudi startup that’s taking a creative approach to humanitarian work
  • Bab Boutique is helping refugees one stitch at a time

JEDDAH: Women refugees and others facing hardship on the margins are developing their creative talents with the help of a Saudi fashion startup.

Bab Boutique was established in 2016 to give marginalized communities the space and resources to invest in their creativity, and to encourage female refugees and others to celebrate their identity and culture.

The boutique describes itself as a “platform to celebrate stories of survival, striving and invisible success through handcrafted pieces created with care and love.”

Bab Boutique was initially set up by Rafah Sahab, Asma Aljifri, Hessa Alrubian, Mariam Alrubian and Fajer Burhamah as a therapeutic activity to support and help Syrian women who had fled their war-torn homeland.

Sahab, a psychotherapist, said that the boutique’s founders were driven by the belief that mental health is just as important as physical well-being.

“The plan was to provide traditional one-to-one therapy sessions during my visits to refugee camps or by securing funds for local therapists in hosting communities like Lebanon and Jordan,” said Sahab.

However, after a few visits, Sahab realized that many refugees were looking for a job, not mental health support.

“I was humbled by their grit and determination to find ways to provide for their children,” she said. “So we joined with local partners to give them a chance to express their creativity.”

Sahab decided to replace the therapy sessions with handicraft work since it was clear that lack of employment was affecting the refugees’ sense of dignity and self-respect.

In collaboration with the Thekra Organization in Jordan, Bab launched its first collection, “Stories of Syria,” which featured hand-embroidered bags in different sizes that celebrated aspects of Syrian culture, including weddings, and the wheat and olive harvests.

“We asked the refugees what we could learn from Syrian culture, and the women began sharing stories that they loved, and these were converted into drawings which the women then embroidered,” said Sahab.

“We took care of selling the collection in the GCC market.”

The market for Bab Boutique’s hand-embroidered products is bigger than many might think, and includes devotees of slow fashion, sustainability, handicraft and environmentally friendly products.

As their efforts began to bear fruit, the boutique’s co-founders discovered that far from being helpers and the refugees victims, the relationship was more cooperative, educational and insightful for both parties.

“We learned that these people have a lot that they can teach us; they have culture, art and creativity that we can benefit from,” said Sahab.

“They are not just refugees, they are people with dreams, potential, capacity, ideas and skills, as well as pain and disappointments. They’re just normal human beings.”

Sahab said that her work with refugees has taught her that “inside every one of us there is a divine power; there is flexibility, and the ability to be creative and overcome hardship.”

In collaboration with Jeddah-based artist Doa Bugis, Bab Boutique recently introduced “Migrating Birds,” a new collection of finely embroidered bags by Syrian refugees in Lebanon based on art pieces created by Bugis, whose works focus on exploring grief, loss, migration and hybrid identities.

“I have been an admirer of Bab for years. The Stories of Syria collection caught my eye and have drawn me into Bab’s own narrative, values and ethics,” said Bugis. “Knowing what they stand for, I said yes without giving it a second thought.

“Migrating Birds has been brewing in my head for years. I’ve always been interested in hybrid identities and spent about six years researching the subject,” Doa Bugis told Arab News.

“One of the main factors behind mixed identities is migration. It has been a phenomenon rooted in history. People have always relocated for better jobs, opportunities and living conditions. Whether the reasons were religious, economical or educational, uprooting yourself and your family is not an easy journey.”

Bugis sketched this narrative with words and then translated it visually. After many attempts she finally created an eye-catching miniature painting that combined Islamic art and calligraphy.

The finely embroidered bags feature images of birds, and phrases such as “In migration, there is loss and existence.”

Bab now hopes refugees can be valued for the cultural richness they bring with them.

“We want to change the fact that money and property is the judge for someone’s richness. You can be financially poor, but rich in culture and art; we want to make this shift,” Sahab said.

She said that the startup hopes to foster a new approach to humanitarian work that will give people the capacity to build for themselves and sustain their lives.

Bab plans to continue working with refugees on special lines and collections, but is also working on building communities both inside and outside the Kingdom.

“We believe that Bab is an imperfect project, an ever-evolving process of trial and error,” said Sahab.

“We have a growth mindset. We try to have patience and work slowly against societal and business industry expectations.”
 
Although social entrepreneurship is a new concept in the Saudi market, Sahab is optimistic about the future.

“Social businesses were not popular in the past. However, recently new regulations were set to support them. I expect a better future for social startups and social entrepreneurship.”  

Bab Boutique products are available online and at concept stores in Saudi Arabia. They can be found at https://babboutique.store and Instagram account @babboutique.me.


Saudi crown prince discusses climate change with leaders on sidelines of regional summit

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman meets Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad in Riyadh. (SPA)
Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman meets Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad in Riyadh. (SPA)
Updated 25 October 2021

Saudi crown prince discusses climate change with leaders on sidelines of regional summit

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman meets Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad in Riyadh. (SPA)
  • The crown prince reviewed the topics on the summit’s agenda and the Kingdom’s environmental initiatives

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman held talks with Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad on Monday, on the sidelines of the Middle East Green Initiative Summit in the capital Riyadh.
During the meeting, they reviewed the topics on the summit’s agenda, and efforts made toward confronting climate change, Saudi Press Agency reported.
Prince Mohammed bin Salman also met with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan to review efforts to reduce emissions and preserve the environment.
He also held talks with Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak, during which they discussed opportunities for cooperation in the fields of clean energy, as well as ongoing efforts to confront climate change.
The crown prince also met with Algerian Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Ayman Ben Abdul Rahman and Tunisian Prime Minister Najla Bouden to discuss the summit’s agenda and the Kingdom’s environmental initiatives, including the Saudi Green Initiative and the Middle East Green Initiative.
Saudi Minister of Energy Prince Abdul Aziz bin Salman, and Minister of Interior Prince Abdul Aziz bin Saud bin Naif also attended the meetings.
Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman and Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi also attended the separate meetings.


Saudi Arabia records 2 COVID-19 deaths, 51 new infections

Saudi Arabia records 2 COVID-19 deaths, 51 new infections
Updated 25 October 2021

Saudi Arabia records 2 COVID-19 deaths, 51 new infections

Saudi Arabia records 2 COVID-19 deaths, 51 new infections
  • The health ministry says 56 patients have recovered from the virus in the last 24 hours

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia confirmed two new COVID-19 related deaths on Monday, raising the total number of fatalities to 8,780.
The Ministry of Health confirmed 51 new cases reported in the Kingdom in the previous 24 hours, meaning 548,303 people have now contracted the disease. Of the total number of cases, 77 remain in critical condition.
According to the ministry, the highest number of cases were recorded in the capital Riyadh with 19, followed by Jeddah with nine, and Buraidah, Makkah, Jazan and Dammam recorded two cases each.


The health ministry also announced that 56 patients had recovered from COVID-19, bringing the total number of recoveries in the Kingdom to 537,338.
Over 45.3 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered since the Kingdom’s immunization campaign started. More than 21.2 million people have been fully vaccinated.
The coronavirus pandemic has affected over 244 million people globally and the death toll has reached around 4.96 million.


Italian official praises good relationship with Saudi Arabia

Manlio Di Stefano is in Saudi Arabia to participate in the summit of the Middle East Green Initiative. (AFP/File Photo)
Manlio Di Stefano is in Saudi Arabia to participate in the summit of the Middle East Green Initiative. (AFP/File Photo)
Updated 25 October 2021

Italian official praises good relationship with Saudi Arabia

Manlio Di Stefano is in Saudi Arabia to participate in the summit of the Middle East Green Initiative. (AFP/File Photo)
  • He also discussed the commercial possibilities opening up for Italian firms under Vision 2030’s programs

ROME: The state of bilateral relations between Italy and KSA is excellent, Italian Undersecretary for Foreign Affairs Manlio Di Stefano said after he met Saudi Deputy Foreign Minister Waleed Al-Khuraji in Riyadh on Monday.

Di Stefano is in Saudi Arabia to participate in the summit of the Middle East Green Initiative, as part of Italy’s commitment to the action on climate change as President of the G20 and co-President of COP26.

“With the Saudi Deputy Foreign Minister Waleed Al-Khuraji we verified the excellent state of bilateral relations and discussed regional scenarios. It was a valuable opportunity to understand Saudi Arabia’s current position on Libya, Afghanistan and Yemen, as well as on the state of its relations with Iran,” Di Stefano said.

He explained that from his meeting “emerged the increased need for mediation in the various theaters, so that these situations of instability can finally normalize to the benefit, first of all, of the most vulnerable parts of the population. The Italian government, also holding the lever of the G20 presidency, is making every possible effort in this direction.”

Di Stefano met also the Saudi Minister of Commerce, Majid bin Abdullah Al-Qasabi. The representatives of the two governments, Di Stefano said, “examined the great business possibilities that are opening up for companies in this moment of post-pandemic economic revival.”

Italy is now the seventh largest commercial supplier to Saudi Arabia.

In the first half of 2021, trade between the two countries grew by more than 17 percent compared to the previous year. According to projections, it should exceed €7 billion ($8 billion) by the end of 2021.

The activity of Italian companies working in KSA has been mainly concentrated in infrastructure and the petrochemical sector.

“But we can do more together since Saudi Arabia, as part of the Vision 2030 Strategy, has launched a program of ecological and digital transition that will radically change the face of this country within the next few years,” Di Stefano said.

He urged leading Italian companies in the fields of renewable energy and high technology “to seize fully all the opportunities which originate from this ambitious program that KSA will put in place.”


Saudi Arabia says following developments in Sudan with concern, calls for de-escalation

Saudi Arabia says following developments in Sudan with concern, calls for de-escalation
Updated 25 October 2021

Saudi Arabia says following developments in Sudan with concern, calls for de-escalation

Saudi Arabia says following developments in Sudan with concern, calls for de-escalation

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia said it is following with great concern the developing events in Sudan and stressed on the importance of restraint and a de-escalation of tensions. 

The Kingdom said it was important to preserve all the political and economic gains and everything that aimed to protect the unity among all the political components in Sudan, according to the Saudi Press Agency.


Qiyadat Global-Georgetown Program to honor female graduate leaders in Riyadh

Qiyadat Global-Georgetown Program to honor female graduate leaders in Riyadh
Updated 25 October 2021

Qiyadat Global-Georgetown Program to honor female graduate leaders in Riyadh

Qiyadat Global-Georgetown Program to honor female graduate leaders in Riyadh
  • Graduates express gratitude for the program, despite conditions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic

JEDDAH: More than 200 graduates from more than 20 countries who completed a women’s leadership program will be honored in Riyadh on Monday.

Qiyadat Global-Georgetown gives participants the leadership skills needed to thrive in the public and private sectors, as well as in nonprofit organizations.

The women addressed leadership skills in decision-making, organizational change management and organizational performance, and interaction with stakeholders.

They came from different backgrounds: 16 percent were from the financial sector, 14 percent were from the education field, and 12 percent were from healthcare. Others had backgrounds in energy, technology, chemicals, media, and communications.

Of the participants, 42 percent had a bachelor’s degree, 47 percent had a master’s degree, and 9 percent had doctorates.

The graduates expressed their gratitude for the program, despite the conditions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

They were also grateful for the wide range of academic coverage, the diversity of nationalities among the participants, and their interaction with each other.

Qiyadat Global-Georgetown represents a contribution toward achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

The 17 goals include education, particularly the quality of education at all levels, gender equality, sustainable economic growth and decent work for all.

Countries have been formulating strategies to target the development of communities while also addressing social concerns such as quality of education, universal coverage of healthcare, provision of social protection, and job creation.