“So, when I returned to the Negev, I made a decision that I was going to preserve the traditions of my grandmother. I started making soaps from olive oil and camel’s milk, and other wild desert herbs. I also started to produce aromatic oils. I sold my products to local women, as well as to tourists who would visit Israel and wanted to try my natural products or take them home as gifts”.
When I completed my studies in Tel Sheva I received a scholarship to travel to the UK to study a BA program. Being in Britain showed me that the world today has an awareness and knowledge about protecting the environment. I began to compare modern living and my life. I started to compare what I knew about the old traditions and saw how the modern world is searching for natural cures, beauty and well-being. This all made me think differently – I understood that the old ways could actually be preserved and help modern day living. As the world is changing, many look to the old ways as solutions in tune with society’s needs.
It wasn’t easy for me as a woman coming from a rather conservative society. In my community, people would look at me as someone who didn’t have the ability to do such a project. No one took me seriously. For seven years I was under a lot of pressure from my family to give up my dream, especially because I chose to make business instead of marrying and raising a family. I held my strong belief that I could succeed. My small business is now ten years old. At the beginning it was only my closest sisters and neighbors who gave me some support and helped me get started. Slowly but surely, I invested in this project and turned it into a real business.
My dream is to turn my small business into an international beauty company. This will give me the opportunity to employ many more women from my community. Today, at Desert Daughter I work with five other women who are the treasure of this business. In my village, there is a lack of jobs available to women, so as my business grows I will be able to employ more and more women from the village and help them provide for their families.
Mariam Abu Rkeek, Israel