Fatima lost her sense of hearing. But that didn’t stop her from finding herself
Real stories inspire - An indomitable spirit
At the age of five, Fatima lost most of her hearing due to an injury. Now 27-years-old, Fatima is one of more than 100 hearing-impaired women who have received special training to sew medical garments. The long-term goal of the Qetan Center is to spark a further expansion of the textile industry across the Kingdom.
- Elements Magazine
Fatima is working at her desk. With deft flicks of her pen, she draws an abstract shape. She considers it and decides to start again; she sketches a new shape. This drawing, she thinks, will work better as the logo.
Fatima smiles as she swivels in her chair to face the sewing machine. She slides the fabric under the spool pin, which pumps thread into the material at a quick clip—like the furious pistons of some miniature locomotive.
It’s easy to take the pleasant clatter of a sewing machine for granted.
Hearing happens at a dizzying speed. You can recognize a sound in 0.05 seconds, and you can sense changes in sound in less than a millionth of a second.
But it can all be lost just as fast.
At the age of five, Fatima slipped and tumbled down a long flight of stairs. Afterwards, her sense of hearing was severely, and permanently, impaired.
After Fatima lost her sense of hearing, she says her sense of well-being evaporated too. Unable to listen, she struggled to communicate, despite the best efforts of her family and friends.
“After I graduated from high school, I was home almost three to four years without a job. I think the emptiness I felt then was the most extreme I experienced. That was my lowest point.”
Yet while Fatima felt isolated and without a clear future, she did not pity herself. In fact, she says her biggest concern was how to grow as a person.
“I would describe those years as hard – lost, maybe,” says Fatima, who is now 27-years-old. “My biggest challenge was to find a job.”
Despite these difficulties, Fatima’s indomitable spirit prevailed. Over time, she taught herself to read lips, and learned to speak confidently without being able to hear herself. Her determination to grow as a person never wavered and, eventually, she found the right place to flourish.
The Qetan Sewing Center
Today, Fatima is thriving.
She is one of more than 100 hearing-impaired women who have received special training to sew medical garments.
According to the World Health Organization, more than 5% of the world’s population, or 466 million people, has disabling hearing loss. In Saudi Arabia alone, that number is 174,000.
In response, in 2017, Aramco launched the Qetan Sewing Center in the Kingdom’s Eastern Province, one of the Company’s initiatives to create employment opportunities for women with hearing loss across the Kingdom.
In addition to building the sewing center and its associated workshops, Aramco partnered with several local charities, affiliated business and medical centers to provide the necessary machinery for the facilities and the skills training for its employees.
Fatima, who learned about the initiative from a friend, was among the first 47 women to enroll in this program.
Its purpose was to equip hearing-impaired women with sewing skills, thereby endowing them with the tools to provide for their families. And so, four years ago, Fatima and her colleagues were specially trained to manufacture a number of garments supplies, such as industrial uniforms and medical linens, for which they earned a healthy, steady salary.
But since working at the Qetan Sewing Center, Fatima rediscovered something else she sorely missed, too: a sense of community and camaraderie.
"Cooperating, interacting and sharing has always been there at the Center. This is the essential environment for quality – of both work and in life," says Fatima. "The center has had a really positive impact on me in terms of being able to meet people. The environment is supportive and helps you move forward."
Fatima also says she’s found a professional outlet for drawing and design, two of the things she enjoys most in life.
"I was not really interested in sewing," she says. "But I’ve always been interested in the arts. So drawing and logo design are both major parts of how we design garments. I enjoy this very much."
The long-term goal of the Qetan Center is to spark a further expansion of the textile industry across the Kingdom, so that it may become an emerging industry, contributing to local production and diversification.
But for Fatima at least, there is no question that the program has already been a success.
"The community keeps becoming stronger," she says. "The women who attend the Center can finally be collaborators. They can be ambitious. I encourage and admire them."
Fatima, who now lives in Al Qatif, says her journey of self-discovery is not yet over. Every day, she continues to strive, and is always seeking to improve herself. But she says her efforts are now bolstered by new wisdom, which she’s gained since working at the Center.
“Open your mind to the possibilities. Take notice of the actions that you must take to achieve your goals. Keep an eye on your future. Always have fresh ambitions. Focus on yourself. Love your soul. And don’t forget that life keeps on teaching you.”
The way that Fatima lives her life animates this idea, that you can achieve your goals in life, so long as you pay attention, learn its lessons and stay focused.
This series celebrates some of the stories of people from across the Kingdom whose lives have been transformed by projects that Aramco is proud to support. Real stories inspire brings their stories to life through illustrated tales, starting with Fatima’s story. Watch the preview below or follow the link for the full interactive version.