What the judges said
The judges said ‘Muhra, a Social Enterprise for Refugee Women’, was awarded one of the four annual £25,000 Prizes for its self-sufficiency and commercial success. Muhra is a local handcraft brand that the judges described as a ‘small scale but intense enterprise, which is working as well for the individual craftswomen involved as for the venture as a whole.’ It also stood out for being initiated by a Turkish NGO in Fatih, Istanbul, working with women refugees from Syria and Iraq, Egypt and among other war zones , enabling them to use their new skills to earn an income to support themselves and their families, providing economic empowerment and self-determination.
‘Muhra’, which is based on the peninsula of Old Istanbul, Turkey, provides refugee women with permanent part-time employment in a handicraft business, ensuring access to a sustainable income while strengthening their professional, personal and social skills.
The winning project, one of four each year, also develops and promotes the long term sustainability of Small Projects Istanbul (SPI)’s Social Enterprise retailing scheme under the brand name ‘Muhra’, which evolved from SPI’s Women’s Skills Development and Income Generation Program, carried out over the last three years.
The activities have been implemented in SPI’s premises, which has been augmented by a child-friendly area for the craftswomen to use, with activities led by two child development experts.
The project provides a technical and soft skills development training program for 55 women, workshop areas for training and production and sales and marketing activities in a child-friendly and safe environment.
The training program focuses on developing advanced tailoring, basic sewing, hand printing (silk screen), block printing, jewellery design and training, and retail and sales skills. Muhra also offers soft skills such as social integration knowledge focused on Turkish society, culture and local habits as well as participation in Turkish language courses – with certification – computer literacy, leadership, team building, sales and marketing activities to boost the brand’s visibility and presentation.
Promotion and sales activities are carried out through an online shop, www.muhra.org alongside utilisation of social media channels, national and international networks, fairs and events, brand ambassadors and through distributors across the globe.
SPI was established as a grassroots response to a growing refugee crisis in 2015. Muhra’s successes include the establishment of a social business that supports more than 50 women with sustainable, self employment opportunities. From 2018 to 2019 product sales increased by 35 per cent, while monthly income of the production team members climbed 50 per cent, while the number of partnerships with distributors shot up 120 per cent.
SPI’s General Manager, Ms. Naz Sağlam said: “In the last three years, this women’s social enterprise has moved from a fully financially dependent set-up to partial independence and its potential remains on track to achieve 100 per cent sustainability through its sales channels by 2022.
“In economic empowerment terms, 45 of its craftswomen contributed to their household expenses while they became fully fledged members of the production team through our professional development training,” she added.
Ockenden International’s four cash prizes recognize and reward innovative work that delivers evidential self-reliance to refugees and/or IDPs, the hallmark of Ockenden International since its inception in 1951.
The four annual prizes are open to projects or programmes focused on Internally Displaced People (IDP)/refugee self-reliance anywhere in the world.The 2020 finalists were (with the other three winners italicised):
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