When I arrived in Egypt I had a plan to retain traditional craftsmanship through the empowering development of microfinance. I was in love with microfinance. I loved that it was not a handout, that it was partnering with poor people to launch their own initiatives and that it seemed so empowering and dignifying. So I had this vision that I was going to use microfinance, but I wasn’t sure which artisan skill I was going to focus on (initially I was leaning towards much of the beautiful mother of pearl work and copper work that is done in Egypt…)
I spent my first two months of working on Ayadi reasearching and meeting with anybody and everybody that would talk to me from the spheres of: artisans, microfinance organizations/institutions, development agencies, various non-profits combating poverty, and visiting various parts of the country to see first-hand artisans at work. I decided to work with the khayameya (traditional tentmakers) – more on this later.
Then I realized that financing, or the traditional microfinance scheme was not the key barrier for those that worked in khayameya. Financing is not the essential hurdle they were facing. What they needed more was training to retain the highly-skilled workers, product diversification, new product ideas, color selections, quality control and most critically accessing markets to sell their goods. So I decided to start working with them closely and using the empowering concept of microfinance, but not in the traditional-sense. To provide funding for products, colors and ideas using their traditional skills but creating new things…
Here are two links to read more about microfinance…when do you think microfinance is the most useful?