Support through handicraft

Amira Hisham, Friday 13 Jan 2023

Egypt has expanded its Productive Families project to help Arab exhibitors showcase their authentic cultural heritage and folklore.

Productive families support talent and develop skills
Productive families support talent and develop skills


Twelve Arab countries participated in Egypt’s House of Arabs exhibition which opened from 5 to 11 January and which was meant to financially empower Arab families who have the skill to showcase handicraft that reflect their cultural heritage and folklore.

The exhibition was organised by the Egyptian Ministry of Social Solidarity in 421 Productive Families centres nationwide. It aimed to help families and irregular workers deal with soaring inflation and improving their economic situation. It also gave exhibitors the chance to promote their products on a regional and global level, especially because their handicraft — inherited from generations past — delineate an amalgam of multiple traditions, customs, and historical backgrounds.

House of Arabs was inaugurated in the attendance of Egyptian Minister of Social Solidarity Nevine Al-Qabbaj and Secretary-General of the Arab League Ahmed Abul-Gheit.

Egypt is experienced in organising exhibitions for handicraft made by locals, holding Productive Families fairs throughout all governorates year-round. The exhibitions, under the emblem “Egypt Speaks Handicraft”, display products that reflect the country’s authentic environment and legacy, such as Nubian, Sinai, and Bedouin silk and wool carpets, kilims, hand-embroidered clothes, artsy handicraft, wooden and glass products, khayamiya, and home furnishing accessories.

Productive Families centres do not serve the purpose of selling products as much as they are a hub to scout for talent and upgrade skills. They also present technical support such as trainers and workshops in various fields.

The Social Solidarity Ministry adopted the activities of Productive Families in 1964 to care for limited-income families and help them contribute to social and economic development.

From 1964 to 2022, Productive Families benefited 731,000 families, or 2.9 million individuals.

Besides funding, the ministry offers a host of services to families involved in the project that suit their needs and economic abilities through its affiliated entities, including from Nasser Social Bank and the Rural and Environmental Industries Support Fund.

The ministry has provided LE3 billion in soft loans for women and productive families to help them establish small and micro projects. The loans have been used in more than 400,000 projects, 68 per cent of which are in rural areas, while women make up 80 per cent of the owners of these projects.

The ministry is also working to open an online marketing platform for Productive Families which will enable a global year-round reach for the products and also support women who cannot physically exhibit their products due to transportation challenges.

Speaking of challenges, House of Arabs may not be selling like hot cakes in Egypt due mainly to the devaluation of the Egyptian pound against several Arab and foreign currencies.

A cloak at the Kuwait booth was being sold for 80 dinars, which at the time of writing cost LE6,888, an exorbitant price for many Egyptians.

A version of this article appears in print in the 12 January, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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