Mashrou3i in Focus: Empowering Rural Women OCTOBER 2021

Empowering Women in Rural Tunisia Through Handicrafts

Rural women are key agents for achieving the transformational economic, environmental and social changes required for sustainable development. In Tunisia, the majority of workers in the agriculture and handicrafts sector are women, making a significant contribution to economic productivity and rural development - in addition to the wellbeing of their families and community. Yet, unequal power relations between women and men in the household and society, discriminatory gender norms and practices, and their disproportionate share of unpaid care and domestic work, hamper the efforts of rural women to improve their lives, as well as those of others around them.

To celebrate the UN International Day of Rural Women on October 15, we explore how Mashrou3i is empowering women artisans in rural Tunisia through managerial and technical skills training. We meet some of the women entrepreneurs supported by the project and find out how they are promoting the country’s rich cultural heritage, tapping into new markets and generating employment opportunities in the interior regions.


Salwa Khalfa, a young entrepreneur from Medenine, has turned her passion to preserve Southern Tunisia's cultural heritage into a successful business. In 2019, with knowledge handed down from her family, she started producing jewelry and her own designs of "Skhab" – a traditional wedding necklace made with scented beads, believed to heal and bring good luck.

"Supported by Mashrou3i’s regional coach, I launched my business "Chamchouma" on social networks, which aims to establish itself as a trendy skhab brand. I also received training in marketing and communication, which enabled me to learn how to manage my orders online.” Salwa Khalfa, Medenine


Carpet weaving, jewelry, pottery, traditional clothing - Tunisia has a rich heritage of craftsmanship. Today, the handicraft sector provides employment to around 300,000 people, the vast majority of them rural women. But in recent years the sector has faced mounting challenges, enhanced by the Covid-19 pandemic and declining tourism. Watch this video to find out how HP LIFE entrepreneurship training and technical assistance provided by Mashrou3i and its partners is empowering women artisans in Tunisia's interior.


Mashrou3i and Creative Tunisia, a project financed by the European Union and the Italian Cooperation, have joined forces to strengthen the development of a kilim cluster in Kef. The projects are working together to train over 120 rural women in kilim weaving techniques to improve competitiveness and enhance access to national and international markets.

Jalila Brini, is one of the 5 kilim producers who will benefit from this technical assistance. Jalila and her 47 employees took part in a training to improve and learn new weaving techniques, enabling them to enhance the quality of their kilim carpets.

"My team and I, have learnt a lot through this technical training. We are now able to work on the quality of the products, adding value with a perfect finish." Jalila Brini, Kilim Producer, Kef


Karim Ben Ali, a 43-year-old computer science engineer, is leading the start up Margoom - an online store that is revolutionizing the handicraft sector in Tunisia. With the support of a network of female artisans, the business offers Berber carpets, kilims and margoum that are tailor-made to meet their customers' individual design needs. Technical assistance and skills training from Mashrou3i is enhancing the quality of Magoom's production and also improving working conditions for these women artisans.

"With support from Mashrou3i, we will train 23 women artisans from the Kef region to improve their carpet weaving techniques. This training is essential to strengthen the competitiveness of Tunisian handicrafts but also to improve the incomes of the women artisans, who are at the heart of this work." Karim Ben Ali, co-founder of Margoom.


Mashrou3i (‘my project’ in Arabic) is a joint project of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation (AICS), the HP Foundation and UNIDO. Mashrou3i fosters youth entrepreneurship in Tunisia and supports the creation and growth of enterprises. The project combines UNIDO’s on-the-ground experience supporting beneficiaries in the creation and growth of small businesses, its working relationships with Tunisian partner organizations and HP’s Learning Initiative for Entrepreneurs (HP LIFE) programme, which consists of free online courses covering basic business, IT and entrepreneurship skills. Stay up to date on all Mashrou3i's project activities and latest entrepreneur success stories by exploring our website and following our social media pages (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram).