Unleashing Women’s Creative Potential.. the Story of Israa

When women and men are equal, economies grow faster; less people remain in poverty, and the overall well-being of people increases. The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO)’s  mandate to support inclusive and sustainable industrial development in Egypt therefore includes harnessing women’s potential as economic actors, leaders and consumers to reach their economic potential and contribute to growth.

UNIDO fosters entrepreneurial cooperation across the Mediterranean by unleashing the competitive advantage of women-led enterprises through increased cooperation between entrepreneurs, product improvement to attract domestic and international buyers and better access to local and international markets.

With UNIDO support, Egyptian cultural and creative products can reach export markets as the in the case of Esraa, a manager in a fashion export company. Esraa wanted to change direction and start a business in which her handcrafted textile and home decoration items could become a viable enterprise. With few others able to replicate her style, which depicts Arabic and Islamic motifs, she stood a good chance of taking her unique products to a wider market. Despite her passion and skill, she faced two problems common to entrepreneurs wanting to grow a business: marketing nous and a lack of skilled workers.

As part of UNIDO’s Creative Mediterranean project, Esraa was able to source and train embroiderers through a collaboration with a local NGO. Ambitious to develop her enterprise further, Esraa joined Egypt’s first Creative Cluster hub – a physical space established in collaboration with the Industrial Modernisation Centre that facilitates cooperation and innovation by bringing designers together and linking the creative and productive processes. Through these interactions, Esraa learned how to tailor her products to meet international trends, enabling her – along with other designers – to showcase her uniquely Egyptian products and textiles in an international exhibition and increase business networks in the process.

Esraa says: “UNIDO’s Creative Mediterranean project helped me to discover more about my capabilities: through my journey with UNIDO I had the opportunity to improve my designs, become an entrepreneur and build a successful business, as well as transfer my knowledge to others.”

With support from the Creative Mediterranean project, Esraa’s business has expanded tangibly: the workforce has grown from 3 workers to 45 skilled embroiders and now creates 600 handmade home decoration and textile pieces per month that are exported on demand to Arab and European markets.

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