Sherine Mahmoud owns a handmade crochet and traditional accessories shop in Sohag, Upper Egypt. Along with three colleagues, she was provided with a business by the governorate after attending a training course for women entrepreneurs offered by the Micro, Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises Development Agency (MSMEDA).
The training, entitled ‘Women Moving Forward’, aims to help women enter the labor market by giving them hands-on training and learning to start their own projects. Implemented in partnership with the International Labor Organization (ILO), the initiative aims to improve entrepreneurial skills and encourage women and girls to start their own projects alongside working in a more traditional work environment.
Mahmoud said she learned through the training course how to use crochet to make accessories and clothing, which gave her more innovative design ideas for her products.
“It taught us to think outside the box,” she said, adding that the training focused on teaching women about branding, marketing and how to calculate wins and losses. They have also been trained on how to calculate the next steps to grow their business. The training aimed to teach women a new simplified method that would be ideal for women from different educational backgrounds, she added.
MSMEDA is a government body established in 2017 with the aim of financing and supporting micro, small and medium-sized enterprises and works with NGOs and international organizations to develop projects and create a suitable environment for them.
Entessar Selim, another trainee who attended the MSMEDA workshop in Sohag, now owns a leather clothing project which she developed with a microcredit from MSMEDA. She said she benefited from services such as speaking engagements (both live and online), particularly the online marketing speaking engagements, which taught attendees how to market their products and design Facebook pages for them, she said .
“If we had done such courses on our own account, they would have been too expensive for us,” she added.
In order to take part in the courses, an intern must be a woman between the ages of 18 and 50, be able to read and write and be willing to start her own project or develop an existing one. The workshop lasts four days and those wishing to attend should go to any MSMEDA office in one of the governorates and bring their ID card or a copy.
MSMEDA supports and empowers women in all economic and social fields through activities aimed at developing skills and spreading the culture of entrepreneurship,” Raafat Abbas, head of the central sector for non-financial services, told Al-Ahram Weekly.
“Women Moving Forward” was designed to appeal to women from all governorates and target the least educated sector that can read, write and count, he said, adding that a trainee should have a project idea after the course that could be implemented.
The trainers then support the trainees in all phases of their projects through to implementation, from project planning to advice on implementation.
Abbas said the workshops used special methodology to teach the trainees, including educational games designed for adult education purposes. The main skills learned included analyzing the positive and negative sides of a project idea, market evaluation, monitoring competitors for a good marketing strategy, evaluating the needs of production such as raw materials, suppliers and different payment terms for products, studying human resources and determining a reasonable salary for each member of a project, determining the cost of facilities and other logistical requirements, and the overall cost of the project.
Areas in which the project offers specialized training include khayamiya (tent-making), embroidery and handmade carpets, among other traditional crafts, Abbas said. To date, 99 workshops have been organized for over 2,000 trainees.
*A version of this article will appear in print in the September 22, 2022 issue of Al-Ahram Weekly.