(Pictured from left: Ros Strong, Attyaf, Evaa, Julianne Sanders)
The Women’s Friendship Sewing Circle is a life-changing program run by Fairfield Parent’s Café Inc. in Fairfield. The program allows refugee women to learn new skills and meet other’s in a safe and welcoming environment. Since it began, the group has expanded into a collaboration with The Social Outfit and has reached 80 women. The program is funded by the Sydney Community Foundation Sydney Women’s Fund and has been supported by The Snow Foundation and others.
Two Iraqi women from the sewing circle, Evaa and Attyaf, were invited as special guests to attend the annual Sydney Community Foundation Sydney Women’s Fund Saluting Sydney Women 2017 lunch.
We share their story here:
“My sister Evaa and I have been attending the sewing circle since near the beginning. Our younger sister was attending school here, so our mother when she heard about the group, told us we should try it. We knew how to sew, learning from our mother. When we came we learnt new techniques and it was fun. We were knowing new people and learning. Mostly, having fun.
What do we miss about Iraq, or our childhood? Nothing.
We call it ‘yesterday’. If we will start to talk about it, we will remember deeper stuff. We don’t want to express and then speak and speak and remember everything. We don’t want to remember.
Our father died of illness in Iraq. We left after that in 2006, with our mother, two younger sisters and brother. We went first to Bahgdad, then Syria. I was 20 and Evaa was 24. We stayed in Syria for four years. My sister and I worked to help our family. Sometimes we were paid, mostly we were not.
We were nervous before we moved to Australia seven years ago. But when we came here, it was the first time as women, we were treated with respect. Like human beings. I was 24 and Evaa was 28.
When we came to Australia and found people are treating us as a human being. Now we are doing something we like, sewing, we are starting to put for ourselves some goals. While we have a few things in our way, family comes first, but we are are putting our foot down, we want this, we’re gonna do it. Let it take as much as it takes but we can do it so we know where we are going, especially now we have found the sewing. We like it. We are expressing feelings that way so we are going towards a good future hopefully we’ll be designers one day, maybe?
What inspires us? Now we make many things. What we aim is to make that particular design, one piece. You know how the designers they only make that one item. Just one
piece. That’s the only one, and it’s made by Attyaf or Evaa. Our favourite colours are black and white. Simple.
But here everything is coming out when we come here to the Sewing Group. It’s all coming out. We find it really easy to communicate here. Most, we are liking the word ‘fun’ in it. The fun brought us here. It’s not like school. We learn, but it’s flexible around our way and our mind. It is fun. It is our future.”
Evaa & Attyaf 2017
(This interview has been condensed and edited.)
About Saluting Sydney Women 2017 lunch
Sydney Community Foundation’s Sydney Women’s Fund, honoured Ita Buttrose AO OBE, at the 2017 Saluting Sydney Women lunch.
Each year this special event celebrates a Sydney woman who has contributed to social justice and the advancement of women in this city and beyond. A highly anticipated occasion, Saluting Sydney Women attracts women in leadership from all walks of life. A continuing tradition of women coming together to recognise the achievements of other great Sydney women.
This year, Sydney Community Foundation and Sydney Women’s Fund paid tribute to an extraordinary Sydney woman, and national media trailblazer, Ita Buttrose AO OBE, Australian journalist, businesswoman, television personality and author.