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Desert Embroidery


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The Association for the improvement of the Status of Women, Lakia: Who We Are, What We Do


About the Association

FoundersThe Association for the improvement of the Status of Women, Lakia was founded in 1996 with the goal of improving the status of Bedouin women in their society and in Israeli society as a whole. The Association was the first women's organization established in the Negev. It is run and operated by local Bedouin women who are sensitive to the needs and problems of their community and of women in particular. The Association, which operates in Lakia and the surrounding unrecognized villages, has been a major influence in the improvement of the status of women over the years.

Our major accomplishments have been to develop a thriving home-centered embroidery industry and to advocate for our community through the development of a cultural tourist center. The Association has raised the awareness of the community on many essential issues, including genetic diseases caused by kinship marriage, the importance of education for adults and both male and female children, pre-natal care, home economics, and more. We have helped young women return to school to complete their studies and provided literacy classes for older women. We also held a series of workshops on breast cancer and raised awareness about the importance of early detection.



* OHELwomenCATALOG Desert Embroidery Project and Visitor Centre – is the Association’s flagship project. It addresses the issue of women's status in the Bedouin community by focussing on the need for developing alternative sources of income through the creation of an industry based on traditional skills to restore the contribution of woman’s earning power to her family. The project helps preserve and develop traditional embroidery skills. It began with fifteen women and has trained over 160 to date, expanding beyond Lakia into neighbouring Bedouin communities. A core of women is responsible for product design and development, provision of embroidery materials, worker training, product marketing, and project management. An additional group of women work part-time at the Association Centre in Lakia, fabricating the basic items and ensuring quality control of the finished goods.
   This year some sixty women are working in their homes doing hand embroidery. These women visit the Centre twice a week to collect embroidery materials, drop off finished items, learn new patterns and designs, and participate in educational workshops and lectures. Each woman chooses the extent of her work and is paid according to the amount she produces.
   Several women have recently studied traditional jewellery making to learn how their mothers and grandmothers made jewellery and their pieces have been added to the Desert Embroidery collection.
The Visitors Centre hosts cultural activities for Israeli and foreign tourists with an emphasis on enhancing coexistence. Through lectures, home-cooked meals and the Desert Embroidery store, it generates income for Bedouin women and for the operations of the non-profit organization. The Centre has received the MAPA award for recommended places to visit in Israel. We belong to the Bnei Shimon Tourist Council and have received awards for the quality of our work from Aid to Artisans.


Library&Kids*Mobile Library – serves several Bedouin tribes in the Lakia area and the outlying unrecognised villages. Its prime aim is to encourage and develop children’s reading skills and provide access to reading material for isolated women in Arabic and Hebrew.





English-Class*Young Leadership Training – Groups of teenage girls meet to engage in projects in the community with a focus on raising awareness to health issues, women's rights and the importance of higher education.





*Educational Projects – the Association runs a yearly summer camp and provides enrichment and tutoring classes in English and Mathematics


Our Place in the Community

The Association Centre has developed into an active community centre providing information on important issues such as health and family care, education, and women’s rights. Monthly lectures at the Centre develop awareness of human rights and the problems of minority groups in Israel. These educational and social activities coupled with the income-generating embroidery project have created a positive cycle, which reinforces the empowerment of Bedouin women. The Centre has become a meeting place for women of different families, tribes and villages, who otherwise would not have met because of traditional barriers.


Cooperation with Other Organizations

The Association has developed fruitful partnerships over the years:

  • * Benei Shimon Regional Council – we are members and represented in all their publications
  • *Joe Alon Center, Museum of Bedouin Culture – recently the Museum initiated and funded the embroidery of a large wall hanging “Women Embroider Their Dreams” which now hangs in the Museum’s permanent collection.
  • * Beer Sheba Artist House – Desert Embroidery pieces are displayed and sold in the Artists’ House and on their web site:
  • * Daughters of the Desert (Bat HaMidbar) – this non-profit organization for the improvement of women’s status is located in the town of Hura. Women from the organization participate in the Desert Embroidery project and their work is sold in the Visitor Center store.
  • *DUART - We cooperate with Kibbutz Kfar Masaryk in combining our embroidery with their recycled paper products.  
  • *Other Organizations - The Association for the Improvement of Women’s Status, Lakia has excellent working relationships with AJEEC (The Association for Arab-Jewish Empowerment and Cooperation), the Negev Institute for Strategies of Peace and Development, SHATIL, the service organization of the New Israel Fund, Maan , and The Association for Bedouin Women's Higher Education, among others. We work in cooperation with local organizations such as Sidreh and Step by Step, as well as with Ben Gurion University of the Negev.

Our work differs from that of other organizations in providing the women of Lakia and the surrounding towns with a means of earning money while learning and becoming more independent. Together we attract more tourists to the region to encourage self-sufficiency. We also work in cooperation with other women's organizations, both Arab and Jewish, to exchange information, strategies and experiences.


Changing the Status of Women in the Bedouin Community

Improving the status of Bedouin women is a long term goal of the organization. Evidence of improvement is visible throughout Lakia. More women allow their daughters to study beyond the eighth grade, while others encourage their daughters to continue to university. The Centre is considered a safe place for women and gives women who would otherwise be restricted to their homes with an opportunity to expand their horizons. Through contact with others, women become aware of the greater possibilities existing for their younger sister, their children and themselves.




We invite you to contact us and visit

the Desert Embroidery Visitor Centre in Lakia!