Sherine Mahmoud owns a handmade crochet and traditional accessories shop in Sohag in Upper Egypt. Together with three colleagues, she was provided with a shop by the governorate after she attended a training session for female entrepreneurs offered by the Micro, Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises Development Agency (MSMEDA).
Titled “Women Moving Forward”, the training aims to support women to join the labour market by training them in crafts and how to start their own projects. The initiative is being run in cooperation with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and aims at enhancing entrepreneurship skills and encouraging women and girls to start their own projects besides working in a more traditional work environment.
Mahmoud said she had learned from the training course how to use crochet to make accessories and clothes, giving her more innovative design ideas for her products.
“It taught us how to think outside the box,” she said, adding that the training focused on teaching women branding, marketing, and calculating profits and losses. They were also trained in how to calculate next steps to grow their businesses. The training had targeted teaching women using a new simplified method that was ideal for women from different educational backgrounds, she added.
The MSMEDA is a governmental body that was founded in 2017 with the aim of funding and supporting micro, small and medium-sized enterprises, and it works with NGOs and international organisations to develop projects and create a proper environment for them.
Entessar Selim, another trainee who attended the MSMEDA workshop in Sohag, now owns a leatherwear project that she developed with a micro-loan from MSMEDA. She said she had benefited from services like lectures (both live and online), especially the online marketing lectures in which attendees were taught how to market their products and design Facebook pages for them, she said.
“If we had taken such courses on our own personal account, they would have been too costly for us,” she added.
In order to attend the courses, a trainee must be a woman aged between 18 and 50, literate, and willing to start her own project or develop an existing one. The workshop lasts for four days, and those wanting to join should head to any MSMEDA branches in any of the governorates, bringing her identification card or a copy with her.
The MSMEDA supports and enables women in all economic and social fields through activities that aim at developing skills and spreading the culture of entrepreneurship,” head of the central sector for non-financial services Raafat Abbas told Al-Ahram Weekly.
“Women Moving Forward” had been designed to suit women from all the governorates and address the least-educated sector who are able to read and write and make calculations, he said, adding that after the course a trainee should come up with a project idea that could be implemented.
The trainers then support the trainees in all the phases of their projects until they are executed, from planning their project to providing them with advice on execution.
Abbas said the workshops used a special methodology to teach the trainees including educational games designed for adult educational purposes. Main skills learned included analysing the positive and negative sides of a project idea, market assessment, the monitoring of competitors for a good marketing strategy, assessing the needs of production like raw materials, providers, and different payment conditions for products, studying human resources and determining a fair salary for each member of a project, determining the cost of facilities and other logistical needs, and the overall cost of the project.
Fields in which the project provides special training include khayamiya (tent making), embroidery, and handmade carpets among other traditional crafts, Abbas said. Thus far, 99 workshops serving over 2,000 trainees have been organised.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 22 September, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.