By Preeti Kannan www.thenational.ae
An Emirati graphic design student has drafted six eye-catching posters she hopes to put up across the country, part of a campaign urging citizens and expatriates to “appreciate” blue-collar workers.
The messages would be illustrated with pictures of construction workers, and would ask: “What if we are in their shoes?”, “What if we are in their helmets?” and “Don’t just pass them over”.
Hessa al Hasshimi, 21, a final-year student at Zayed University, has launched Nakera, or “unknown”, a multi-pronged campaign that is part of her graduation project to be showcased at Meydan on June 6.
“The blue-collared workers are unknown and unrecognised,” said Ms al Hasshimi. “I want them to be recognised and that was the reason behind this campaign. We are one and we should be on the same level. We are not better than anyone.”
This month she plans to meet with authorities, seeking permission to display her educational messages on billboards, buses and the Dubai Metro.
Ms al Hasshimi said she hopes that besides raising awareness, her messages would strike an “emotional” chord with the community and importantly, sponsors, who could potentially fund the ambitious project.
Her inspiration came from a sleeping construction worker.
“Once I stopped by this red signal and saw this worker lying down,” she said. “No one bothers to see if they are alive or dead.”
The campaign encompasses construction workers and would be expanded to other migrant workers, based on the community and the labourers’ response to Nakera.
The campaign has also taken to the internet. Ms al Hasshimi initiated a Twitter account, @Nakera_, to create awareness in the cyber community. She said there was a need for workers to be integrated into society. “Workers don’t really mingle,” she said, adding that she was keen to “fix” inequalities between workers and the local and expatriate communities in the UAE.
As part of Nakera, Ms al Hasshimi’s six posters – three targeting the community and the rest aimed at workers – would let labourers know that their efforts were appreciated. Messages targeting workers include “I am proud to be a part in developing Dubai,” “I have contributed in building Dubai” and “We are happy in building Dubai”.
Her campaign is also in response to human rights groups who criticise protection for workers. “I wanted to send a message that we care,” she said.
She has also come up with a model lunch box that workers would use to carry food and water bottles.
“They don’t use a proper box to carry their lunch. They use steel boxes. I wanted to create something simple and these boxes could be made out of treated cardboard or plastics,” she said.