In one of Cairo’s informal settlements, Ezbet Khairallah, exists a cooking hub for Syrian and Egyptian women, where all the dazzling amalgamation between Egyptian and Syrian food happen.
Dawar Kitchen is a social enterprise incubated under Dawar for Arts and Development, an organization meant for psychosocial interventions for citizens impacted by wars, displacement, or any instabilities. When they realized that psychological relief is not enough, Dawar launched a kitchen to empower their communities economically.
“After the workshops, we found out that it gave them psychological relief but it is useless if they are not economically empowered, and do not have a way to earn their living with fair wages,” says Nada El Shazly, Business Development Manager at Dawar for Arts and Development.
Accordingly, they started with selling preserved food such as jam or labna in the center, and eventually decided to launch their own kitchen to create a sustainable and reliable source of income.
The kitchen staff is based on the participants of Dawar’s workshops along with the graduates of UN Women’s comprehensive cooking programs for women refugees. During the kitchen’s construction, less-privileged Egyptian women from the district joined the crew.
“Some of them had no cooking skills in the beginning and were assigned to some cleaning tasks, but some developed and are now assistants to the main chefs,” adds Nada.
Nada stresses on the vitality of economic empowerment projects to support the families financially especially with harsh economic conditions either domestically or from the refugees community.
“I believe that economic empowerment is crucial for women, especially with the changing economic conditions and this empowerment would come basically by training. We aim to train them to give them access to skills and give them better work opportunities to support their families,” she adds.
Yet, the location of the kitchen in Ezbet Khairallah was problematic at the beginning for both the staff and the customers. The Syrian women were unfamiliar with the area, and the project managers were unable to find sufficient suppliers to provide the ingredients with good quality. To break the accessibly barrier for customers, they started hosting lunch events inviting people to the kitchen and allow them to get to know the women and the area more.
Now, this event became very popular and gets fully booked after only two days of the announcement!
Nada clarifies that picking Ezbet Khariallah served more than just their initial goal of economically empowering Dawar Arts’ women. It offered work opportunities for the people of the district who do not have access to trainings or anything that could enhance their skills and increase their income. It also served the women who do not have the money to start their own business or the knowledge about marketing or management.
They are constantly trying to increase their customers’ base, striving to reach out to NGOs, companies and businesses that have constant demand for their services. They are also working to open new product lines to employ as many women as possible.
Dawar Kitchen currently employs 14 women and is aspiring to double this number by the end of 2019. Checkout their menu on their Facebook Page @Dawar.kitchen and Instagram @dawarkitchen