When thinking of feminism and gender emancipation, the last thing coming to one’s mind would be handicraft and embroidering. For many, these activities are seen as soft skills from another age, in line with normative gender roles confining women to domestic work.
But today, in the worlds of art and feminism, a paradigm shift is happening. “Craft and embroidering are sources of knowledge and history. It has been employed by women who had been silenced and who have found handy craft as a way to make a print in the world of art,” says Renata Miron, student of the Royal Arts Academy in the Netherlands. For a few months, Renata has been running a handy craft workshop with the association De Voorkamer in Utrecht, open to women from all backgrounds, newcomers or Dutch women alike. In these workshops, migrant women learn new skills, have the possibility to build a network and create a new sense of belonging while sharing their culture. These activities are flourishing across several cultural centres in Utrecht, proving how effective these kinds of gathering are to migrant women. “When I’m busy embroidering, I don’t think about other things. It gives me a lot of peace”, says Narges Payandtaheri, an Iranian participant of Huis van Vrede (House of Peace) embroidering workshop.
The city of Utrecht is dedicated to facilitating the integration of migrant women. Member of the community of practice on gender in our EU-funded project CONNECTION, Utrecht has worked since 2015 with an integration concept called Plan Einstein. This strategy connects people and offers meeting spaces for newcomers and Dutch people at neighbourhood level. Through this initiative, the municipality cooperates with local NGOs and associations to provide various range of activities for migrants in order to activate them “from day 1”. Plan Einstein is about creating an inclusive and welcoming city for all, to bring people together, “and eventually to change the world. Stitch by stitch”.