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Meet Janette Habashi

Today we’d like to introduce you to Janette Habashi.

Janette, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
My name is Dr. Janette Habashi and I am a professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Oklahoma, as well as the founder and executive director of Child’s Cup Full (CCF), a non-profit social enterprise that creates sustainable economic opportunities for low-income women artisans in the West Bank. The idea for Child’s Cup Full began in 2008 when my students and I went to the West Bank on a small fundraising initiative to support grassroots education programs for refugee children. The local Palestinian community appreciated our assistance, but a group of mothers reached out to me, expressing their need and desire for a long term solution to their economic difficulties. As the local economy does not offer much economic opportunity to women, I knew that finding these women reliable work would be extremely challenging.

After much contemplation, I knew the best solution would be creating jobs for these local mothers. Thus, Child’s Cup Full was born. Despite not having any background in business, I was committed to helping these women. With the support of the Center for the Creation of Economic Wealth at the University of Oklahoma, I took business classes they recommended. After that, I set out on developing a brand that could utilize my background in educational psychology and the mother’s desire to work. This led to the creation of Zeki Learning. Zeki Learning is a children’s educational resource brand committed to creating high-quality learning materials for toddlers and preschool-age children that support cognitive development and language learning. The brand exclusively employs women from Zabedah and it’s neighboring villages, where access to work is particularly scarce.

As word began to circulate locally about Child’s Cup Full and the jobs it was creating, more and more women began approaching our organization for work. To help more women, we decided to form a second brand under CCF. Inspired by the prevalent knowledge of traditional Tatreez embroidery in the region, we decided to create Darzah.

Since its founding in 2014, CCF has grown to include six full-time artisans and 22 part-time artisans. CCF has an artisan center located in Zababdeh, where our artisans come together to build community. Due to the demanding nature of Tatreez embroidery, our artisans usually opt to work from home. This model is made possible by our lead artisan, Rahaf, who delegates work and coordinates the drop-off and pickup of projects to each artisan. As Darzah brings on new artisans, Rahaf travels to their homes to train them in additional techniques and skills, such as how to embroider more efficiently.

Women from the community continually contact us in search of job opportunities. As we grow, we can hire more women and offer our current artisans additional training, and that is why growth is central to our company.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
As a full-time professor, running the non-profit and its two brands has been far from easy. The time difference between the US and the West Bank makes communication challenging. In addition, there is a need for continuous training to improve our women’s skills to produce new products that are fashion-forward and appealing to our customers. This requires us to fundraise or apply for highly competitive grants. Luckily, no challenge is too large to keep us from pursuing our mission. There is always a new opportunity to pursue and a new problem to solve but never enough time in the day. Truly, the work never ends but this is something for which we are overwhelmingly grateful. We have managed to grow consistently from our humble beginnings and therefore, help empower an increasing number of women in the West Bank.

We’d love to hear more about your organization.
Child’s Cup Full is a non-profit social enterprise that creates sustainable economic opportunities for low-income women artisans in the West Bank. CCF’s work enables some of the most vulnerable women in the West Bank to make a career of their craft by producing high quality, handmade pieces through our two brands, Zeki Learning and Darzah. Zeki Learning partners with experienced early childhood educators to design educational toys and games for children ages 0-7 that support cognitive development and language learning. Mothers in the West Bank lovingly craft each Zeki Learning product by hand, using locally sourced surplus materials.

Darzah means “stitch” in Arabic. Darzah is an ethical fashion brand specializing in Palestinian “tatreez” embroidery, a centuries-old art form, traditionally passed down from mother to daughter. Each of our pieces is hand-embroidered and 100% handcrafted in the West Bank. Our mission is twofold: 1) to create economic opportunities for refugee and low-income women artisans, and 2) to celebrate tatreez embroidery and Palestinian cultural heritage.

How do you, personally, define success? What’s your criteria, the markers you’re looking out for, etc?
I define success as being able to provide stable work and ongoing opportunity for growth to our artisan partners in the West Bank. We find motivation in the “small wins”, like getting a genuine, positive customer review or new referral. These small building blocks enable us to fulfill our mission of training and hiring low-income women regardless of skill sets. I believe every individual wants to live with integrity and providing them with training and work certainly contributes to such a goal.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Darzah photo credits: Nadia Irshaid Gilbert
Zeki Memory Game: Surabhi Agrawal
Artisan & Dinosaur: Barbara Johnston
Remaining Artisan photos: Unknown

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