The future looks bright for Tunisian women who are working together to earn a living through an Islamic Relief project that also promotes women’s rights.

Women in the large south-eastern governorate of Tataouine struggle to access the same opportunities as men: over 24 per cent of women in the area are unable to read or write, and more than 50 per cent are unemployed.

Islamic Relief is helping to change that, by supporting women to reach their potential and achieve self-reliance.

Working in coordination with government authorities to provide economic, social and health support to local women, we are creating six women’s groups and raising awareness of women’s health and social rights.

With 85 women in total taking part in the Islamic Relief project, there are three groups specialising in handicrafts and three groups focusing on goat farming.

All participants have received training on working in a cooperative work, as well as on financial and administrative management and technical training. In addition, Islamic Relief has supported the groups with access to work venues, tools and raw materials – and has also provided backing with marketing and exhibitions.

The women have taken leadership roles in organising training and open days to increase their awareness of health issues, social rights, safety and the environment.

Dreams to share

The hardworking ‘Al-Izdihar’ group have already increased the number of goats they have.

The ‘Al-Izdihar’ goat-farming group in Kasr Hdadda is one of the groups who have already achieved significant successes. Made up of 21 very active women, the group received 50 goats in October. Dividing themselves into small teams and organising shift patterns and clear work plans, the group have already increased the number of goats to 77 and the milk they produce is now in demand locally.

“We appreciate Islamic Relief’s support for this group,” said group leader Salha Haddad, “We also thank all the relevant directories and the working group as well. We are doing our best to make it successful.”

The group plan to double the number of goats they have by next year, and will eco-friendly techniques to turn goat manure into fertiliser to sell.

“Before, we would stay at home every day. Now we have dreams to share and action to take,” Salha adds.

Creating livelihoods and friendships

This is a sentiment echoed by the Oasis group in Tlalet and Kasr-Mrabtin. The dozen women that make up this group specialise in ‘Smara’ weaving – the pride of the region, as it reflects the local plant of the same name. The group aim to further develop to be more competitive in the local and national market.

Members of the Oasis group have enjoyed forging new friendships as well as boosting their self-reliance.

They have been creating new artistic designs and introducing materials such as leather and other textiles to create attractive items.

“Islamic Relief has offered me the opportunity to learn this handicraft and be productive,” said group leader Lamaa Arfa. “I need to work to raise my children as I lost my husband.”

The group spans two areas which are ten kilometres apart, which, explains Lamaa, has had an unexpected benefit for participants:

“It is not easy to get to know and make friends with people from other rural areas due to the lack of opportunities and shared interests. This project creates the environment to make new friends and partnerships.”

The project, which ends later this year, is funded by Forum Syd. Islamic Relief has been working in Tunisia since 2011, and delivers life-changing development projects supporting poor and vulnerable people across the country.