Weaving for Empowerment: Albanian Women Crowdfund to Expand Their Business


By Teddy Sun

Diana is an Albanian mother who has established her workshop for traditional handicrafts in the historic city of Shkodra. Diana’s family produces household textiles in loom, a technique passed down through generations for more than 150 years. This old textile tradition in Shkodra is kept alive through innovation and the creativity of the artisans by using original designs while introducing new types of products that keep up with modern tastes and trends.

In Diana’s workshop you can find the ancient techniques of the past preserved with passion, combined with modern colors which are used to create gorgeous tablecloths and sheets, in the tradition of Northern Albania.

Near the shop, you have the opportunity to visit the small workshop where 12 women work together, weaving various handicraft textile products on their old looms. Among them, you can find three generations of Diana’s family. You can feel the passion and love for her work in Diana’s smile and in her swift hands weaving on the loom. “This workshop is made by women for women,” she says.

She is one of the 120 women who, thanks to the social business Rozafa, have been able to make an income from their skills despite living in a small city largely bypassed by global trade and commerce. Rozafa was founded to empower rural women and to revitalize the appreciation for traditional Albanian handicrafts. It operates 15 centers around Albania providing training, equipment and sales and distribution services. Until now, the sole employee running this busy operation has been Aida, the social entrepreneur. She is looking to expand her business and hire a sales manager to explore new markets for Rozafa.

Social business, as defined by Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Muhammad Yunus, represents the idea that companies should exist for social benefit rather than private profit. Similar to an NGO, it has a social or environmental mission, but like a business, it generates its own revenues to cover its costs, allowing it to become financially self-sustainable. Yunus Social Business (YSB) acts as Professor Muhammad Yunus’ global implementation arm. YSB’s role is to create and empower social businesses like Rozafa by providing finance and business advice.

For the first time, YSB is teaming up with Kiva.org, a nonprofit crowdfunding platform, to raise 18,000 EUR in zero-interest loans for Rozafa. The investment will, over a period of six years, finance a sales manager to develop and implement a successful marketing strategy for Rozafa that will help it to bring Diana’s beautiful Northern Albanian handicrafts to the European market.

Unlike donations, loans on Kiva encourage business discipline as they must be repaid on time. Lenders can track the progress of their loan online. Anyone can lend to Rozafa. Loans can be as little as $25 USD and the business will start to pay back via the website by its third year.

Rozafa is fundraising now on Kiva.

Find out more about YSB at: http://www.yunussb.com/

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