Irthi Contemporary Crafts Council is an affiliate of NAMA Women Advancement Establishment, an organization in Sharjah, that was established in 2015. Through its various programs the Council aims to provide a fresh narrative for women, by developing new opportunities in different markets and sectors, delivering social development programs and vocational training, as well as preserving the skills and rich cultural heritage of the UAE for future generations.
One such example is the Council's Bidwa Social Development Program which employs exclusively female artisans. Through the program, the artisans receive vocational training and access to new markets for their skills through commercial collaborations and regional artisan exchange programs. The program emphasizes diversity and soft skill training to elevate the artisans' craft and social skills, and build their artisanal and entrepreneurial capabilities.
Another example is Design Labs. Much like art residencies, Design Labs brings together international designers with Bidwa artisans (aged 45-70), and a younger generation of trainees (aged 25-35) to allow for an exchange of crafts, design, and knowledge and ensure sustainability. The designers bring new production techniques and crafts into the Bidwa Center, while the Bidwa Center offers the space and productive capacity of Emirati artisans and trainees for collaboration, and product manifestation.
* 8 new crafts have been added to the Bidwa Center's crafts vocabulary from over 7 countries and cultures.
* 6 new trainees have been enrolled at the Center.
* Pieces produced during the residencies have toured prominent international design fairs, where they were exhibited and sold, supporting both the women that create the crafts and the communities to which they belong.
* Design Labs are to take place at the Bidwa Center every two years.
Bidwa Social Development
* Irthi Crafts Council along with the Bidwa Centers have developed crafts of a strong regional identity/cultural significance, and created real economic, social impact for artisanal communities.
* 13 more Bidwa Centers are to open by 2023 across the UAE.