In one of the glass buildings of Al Maadi lies a small flat of determined women where a variety of clothing items and jewelry are made and impressively portrayed, powering the emerging brand AlMashghel.
AlMashghel, Arabic for workshop, is a project aiming to empower female refugees and less-privileged Egyptian women (with a ratio of 70:30) economically by giving them a chance to earn their living through sewing and jewelry making until they eventually lead their project.
It is created under the UN Women Project, ‘Leadership, Access, Empowerment, and Protection in Crisis Response’ (LEAP), implemented under the National Council for Women in cooperation with the UNHCR, funded by the Government of Japan and implemented in partnership with CARE International in Egypt. LEAP is a regional project aiming to achieve economic empowerment and end violence against women and AlMashghel falls under the goal of women’s economic empowerment.
“It is about people coming from different backgrounds for a cause. This is a different product! It has a story and it comes with a flavor of the culture,” says Alia Soliman, CARE’s Communication Advisor.
It first started in April 2017 with trainings to about 500 women on sewing, jewelry, hairdressing, kitchen and embroidery until the best were picked to launch AlMashghel in March 2018. Thaat Social Enterprise held the trainings, contributed to the women selection process and worked as a designer for the products until the women were able to handle the designs on their own.
“It was at first very heterogeneous with different people from different backgrounds, but as soon as they started working, they developed a harmony and a social community that is theirs,” says Marwa Saleh, Project Manager at CARE under the LEAP project.
A Syrian woman from the group currently leads the project, oversees the production, handles the designs and helps the rest fix their own products. “It is a success that they started from scratch and they are now capable to manage the production themselves,” Marwa adds.
Yet, it gets more challenging when some of the participants move to another district or even leave the country. Hence, they train a larger number of women and get them other shadows to create a team for every step so the production does not stop when one person does not show up.
“In order to ensure the project is creating the best work environment for the women, we put into consideration all the social constraints and try to find a solution to it,” says UN Women Project Assistant at LEAP, Dina Mokbel explaining their strategy of dealing with the working hours and compensation of the women participants.
Acknowledging the fact that the annual fund may stop at some point, Dina emphasizes that the goal of this project is the intervention so the participants learn how to be empowered and handle their jobs even after the funding stops.
“The goal is sustainability for the intervention even beyond the lifetime of the project,” she adds.
For that to happen, the project managers ensure their efficiency by providing the participants with a before and after survey to test aspects such as their involvement in the decision making process, contribution, and more.
However, the project managers aspire to sustain AlMashghal with a profitable business model, and not just a break-even. Their vision is to have supervisors, admins, and marketing from the women themselves in the future.
Checkout their winter collection @almashghel on instagram!