Buy used or buy local: “Dukkan” encourages self-sufficiency for Palestine

Dukkan, the Turkish word for store, is an initiative selling second-hand items in Palestine which crucially, are donated by Palestinians themselves.

It has recently reopened at the Khalil Sakakini Cultural Center, but in the coming months will launch with a permanent presence in Ramallah.

Clothes, toys, books and kitchenware line the hangers and shelves, designer brands among them.

Alongside the second-hand items, local produce is also for sale, from soaps to earrings made by the women’s cooperatives which the organisation behind the Dukkan – the Dalia Association – works with.

The Dalia Association has worked for over ten years in community development. Aisha Mansour, executive director, explained to Palestine Monitor their four core pillars. First, enabling a strong local economy. Second, protecting the environment. Third, preserving culture and finally, providing basic social needs.

Eleven Palestinians founded Dalia after coming to the conclusion that much of the post-Oslo aid coming to Palestine was not addressing the actual priorities of Palestinian people.

It comes pre-packaged, [it’s] take-it-or-leave-it aid, Mansour said. Here’s the project and here’s the funding.

Not only did this aid not correlate with people’s needs, but the Dalia founders also feared aid was detrimental because it was leading to a weaker civil society, Mansour said.

And we’re not like that as Palestinians. We were never like that, she said. But she feels a culture of dependency has been bred.

Part of our heritage and our culture is to be mobilising and organising and using our own resources; really being concerned and active citizens, and that’s slowly going away.

The Dalia Association hopes to counter this by facilitating communities to mobilise their own resources and set their own priorities, which it then works with them to meet. This means projects vary hugely community to community.

I don’t live everywhere in Palestine, so I don’t know the priorities in x village. I don’t live there, I don’t sleep there [so] it’s not my right, even as a Palestinian, to decide that, Mansour said.

The Dukkan encapsulates the ideology of Dalia in that it utilises pre-existing Palestinian resources.

Dukkan is a personification of who we are as Dalia, Mansour said.

They want to make use of the items they say are already available within Palestine.

We’re rich, we’re not poor, and we have a lot to share, said Mansour.

Asked if there was concern to know where items donated to Dukkan originally come from, Mansour explained that they had already been bought so even if products were originally Israeli, for instance, the money from reselling the items will not go there.

Rather, revenue is put back into funding Dalia’s community work, lessening their reliance on grants and foreign aid.

Mansour does however lament that Palestinians no longer seem conscious of where their produce originates from and tries to lead by example in her own consumption.

Everybody’s buying stuff and a lot of people don’t ask where [it] comes from Even though we [Palestinians] had an awareness, we kind of lost it, she said.

Mansour found that Palestinians needed some convincing about the concept of second-hand shopping, but that generally people feel happy to know their items will be re-used rather than thrown away. They hope through Dukkan they will encourage active citizenship.

To get people to think it’s [second-hand things are] not just for poor people, but something I should do as a responsible citizen who cares about the environment and local economy, Mansour said of their goals.

Bader is a university student picking up shifts at Dukkan. He echoed Mansour’s comments about leading the way for Palestinian self-sufficiency, as well as how the region is in fact resource rich.

In Palestine we live very well, but we don’t invest, he said.

Outside [abroad], there are many shops like this, but not here. We hope that others follow us.

The Dukkan is currently open four days a week and will be announcing details of their new store in the coming months.