Saudi Women Lead By Example
By Mariam Nihal
Nesma Embroidery is a local business owned by Saudi entrepreneur and social activist Sheikh Saleh AlTurki, that hires Saudi women from various villages and cities to run the business. Along with daughter Noura Alturki, Executive Manager of Nesma Group Support service, who works with him to run Nesma embroidery, the dream is to have a ‘factory in every village’ in the country. Nesma embroidery was opened in 2009, as a non profit organization that provided jobs for 40 Saudi women with speech and hearing disabilities. Sheikh Saleh AlTurki’s vision is to create a national industry that employs women for sewing and embroidery, providing them with sustenance, a guaranteed source of income to be able to support themselves and deliver quality standard products that meets international and local standards.
Saudi women at Nesma embroidery deal with all stages of production from conceptualization to production all the way to quality control and distribution. The factories are based in Jeddah, Dammam and Khulais. They will soon open in Thuwwal. Saudi Gazette caught up with Rana Abdullah Zumai who manages Nesma Embroidery.
A powerhouse on her own, Zumai is the general manager and the key to the institution that runs the show. She said the company is focused on empowering Saudi women who come from different parts of the country and to pave the way for others to follow. Zumai also maintained that Nesma believes in giving women with disabilities and responsibilities a chance to provide for themselves and their families. “We have so many success stories and it makes me so proud. One of our ladies is partially deaf and another one can only see with one eye. But they are the best at what they do and make us feel so proud of their achievements!” But hiring Saudi women from villages came with challenges especially in places where women weren’t employed nor had the skills for primary or secondary jobs. “It wasn’t easy. At first we faced hesitation and rejection that came from- ‘men will be training us and we haven’t done this before’,” she admitted.
But Zumai didn’t take no for an answer. As an ambitious and strong-headed individual, Zumai was raised to be independent and hard working. Unlike many women, she believes that women should work for their rights and not assume they will inherit it because of their race. When asked where she finds her strength, she admitted: “It comes from my mother.”
In this new cultural wave, Saudi women who had never worked before or thought their disabilities would never land them a job, were now being asked to engage, learn and work for Nesma.
“I spoke to the women myself. I told them this is a chance that doesn’t come to everyone. ‘People wish this would happen to them but it is happening to you. Just because you are Saudi women don’t expect money to come to you. These opportunities do not come easily.’ We brought an international team of experts that cost a lot to train them and maintain high quality and standards when it comes to production and even the machines we use. I reasoned with them and they listened. Now we have women who travel to work daily from Khulais to Jeddah. I even have a daycare for their children. These things are important and essential to a healthy and happy workforce,” she said.
Zumai is one of those women who have the innate ability to understand and deliver what people deem is most important. “Making people happy makes me happy. The owners have a lot of trust in me and I appreciate them giving me so much confidence and authority to bring in people, train them, even with things that aren’t related to me, they trust my opinion and it is because of them I am able to do all of this. Especially Nura Alturki who is our support and mentor.” Many local and international enterprises including fashion designers and spas source all their uniforms and clothing from Nesma embroidery.
“Usually people bring everything from China or outsource their production. We want to create our own industry,” Zumai said. “I am ready to create everything from scratch here because we can.” Nesma embroidery is a part of Nesma holding group.