In the heart of Brick Lane there is a little door, hidden between the shops. If you pass by it you might not notice it, but behind that door there is a place where women bring together their ideas and strengths to build up a better future. Over that door there is Heba with a little office, a kitchen and a sewing room.
Heba means “gifted” and it’s a small charity founded 25 years ago. It originally started by providing English lessons to women from different cultural backgrounds who were living in the area. Many of them knew how to sew a little and wanted to learn how to do it professionally. So they decided to start offering training to give them the chance to learn new skills in a safe environment.
Anjum is from Pakistan and has been working there for 20 years. She tells me that many women have been able to learn how to sew and they have then started making dresses on order in their local communities, effectively beginning their own small business.
Lately though they had to give up the English lessons as the rent of the space they were using increased too much. They also don’t know if they can continue providing the sewing classes as the funds are slowly running out.
Despite the problems along the way, Heba is determined to continue its wonderful work and it is now focusing more in creating beautiful crafts and in collaborating with emergent designers to provide the women with an income and to keep the project alive.
At the moment there are four women working in the production, one of them is Laila. Laila is from Yemen and she does a bit of everything. She designs, she sews and she works at the stall in Spitalfields Market where Heba sells its beautiful dresses and accessories.
After all this time, Heba’s work is still relevant and really important. Integration and empowerment are what these wonderful women have been working on with passion and courage. It is truly inspiring to see a small group of committed people contributing to positive change. Heba is an hidden gem worth preserving, a space where women can come together, learn at their own pace, nurture their talents and build their own future.
You can support Heba by shopping at their stall in Spitalfields Market on Sundays or by taking part at their drop in classes on Saturdays.
Sewing Workshop: Saturdays 10am-1pm (£15)
Pattern Cutting Workshop: Saturdays 2:30pm-4:30pm (£15)
Heba Women’s Project 164 Brick Lane, E1 6RU
(Heba at Spitalfields)