Fatma Soleman fled Eritrea two decades ago and has been fighting ever since to not only escape life as a refugee but to help other women do the same. One dozen years ago she started helping refugee women to create and sell handicrafts, including crochet, in order to support themselves. Her work, based in Cairo, is still going strong.
AllAfrica.com explains that Egypt allows refugees to come into the country but there are limited services and work opportunities for them there once they arrive. There are probably about a half a million refugees in Egypt but less than 50,000 of them are recognized as such by the government and only about 12,000 receive financial assistance. Moreover, the country bans many of them from seeking lawful employment. Soleman works to help women refugees not only learn to create handicrafts for sale but also to learn the business side of making that work profitable.
Soleman works with an NGO that was already helping refugees learn to start their own businesses. Along with several other teachers, she helps more than four dozen students learn to make jewelry and other items. In addition to crochet, the students learn glass-painting, sewing and other jewelry making skills. Once they have these skills, they also learn how to market themselves, how to network with local business owners to sell their work, etc. It is this extra level of skills that helps the women actually be able to support themselves.
The article notes that there’s more to this than just making money. The work keeps the women productive and busy, assisting them in moving beyond the tragic circumstances of their pasts and into their futures.
Do you know of other organizations and people helping refugees through handicrafts and business development? Leave any names you know of in the comments to support the work that they’re doing!