Tunisian social venture launches nature discovery day to empower Tunisian women artisans
An initiative by Wiki PAM is allowing Tunisians to get to know their country better and helping to create a bigger market for local artisans working in more remote areas.
A Tunisia-based initiative to support local artisans, Wiki PAM, launched last month a discovery day for Tunisians to get to explore their country and support local artisans. The initiative is about getting Tunisians to get to know their country better but also to start creating a bigger market and a bigger network for local artists and artisans working in lesser visited and more rural parts of the country. At the same time it helps these same artisans grow their networks and develop new collaborations.
In many ways, the Arab spring that started in Tunisia was sparked because of neglected regions in the interior of the country. The coastal towns were prospering whilst the rural communities inwards were somewhat excluded from this unequal growth. WikiPAM is a collaborative network that tried to remedy this and is focused to support local artisans and help them grow their businesses both for the national and export markets. In this case, rather than taking the artisans to the market (in the capital city), they brought the market to the artisans.
The day was structured to also bring up the issue of sustainability and the importance of nature in local craftswork. The products that they produce include artisanal oil and tea infusions. Organic, something that is fashionable in today’s consumer world, comes naturally to these artisans. Everything that they’ve been doing and creating is organic.
The ‘Pure Nature Discovery Day’, which took place in the northwestern region of Tunisia in June, included a hike in the Beni Mtir forest, a yoga class, mountain biking and an introduction to various different artisanal practices.
The idea was to encourage Tunisians to explore their country, to benefit from a learning experience and also understand local craftsmanship and as a result help to support local industry and the artisans. The artisans would be able to expose their work to a wider clientele and for all participants to discover the region’s art of crafts.
Learning about the region
The participants who took part in the trip met early in the morning in the capital city of Tunis and drove three hours west to the city of Aïn Draham near the Algerian border. For many of the participants, this was their first visit to this part of Tunisia, an area known for its lush forests and biodiversity. On arrival in the forest the participants set out on a botanical hike and received a detailed explanation of the surroundings by a local guide.
At the end of the hike, the attendees chose between another activity including mountain biking or something less strenuous such as a yoga class.
Following the activity-led sessions, which helped the group to get to know each other and bond, the group then participated in some discussions and seminars, including on the work and initiatives that are helping to empower women in rural communities. The participants learnt about the traditions of the region and some of the initiatives undertaken by the local artisans’ cooperative to change the stereotypes associated with rural regions and women.
Later that afternoon, the participants attended various workshops curated and run by the artisans themselves, learning different techniques and crafts that are practiced in the region. These included learning how to distil oil, how to make artisanal cheese and how to put plants through a plant dryer to make products like dried lavender.
Focus on sustainability
As the world meets to change food systems, producing local, consuming local, and eating natural, nutritious foods will become more important to our lives. Doing so in a sustainable and natural way is the best way to combat climate change and also having a healthier population.
The issue of sustainability and doing things in an eco-friendly way was a running theme during the day. The organisers reiterated the importance of recycling and to do things in a sustainable manner. There was minimal waste. For example, each participant was given a gourd as opposed to plastic water bottles. Plastic bags, which unfortunately are still too common place in the country, were replaced by fabric bags and baskets and disposable lunch dishes were replaced with reusable kitchen ware.
Creating opportunities for women
Created in 2018, the Wiki PAM network now counts over 500 women from the northwestern region. The northwest, less wealthy than the coastal cities in the country, includes the remote but picturesque cities of Béja, El Kef, Jendouba and Siliana.
Creating these networks and providing support to these artisans will also create new opportunities for these women as well as support the local economy. The country has had a depressed economy in recent times due to political crises and Covid-19 and unemployment is on the rise.
Wiki Pam is an initiative launched by Action Collaborative Pour Les Exportations Artisanales (ACEA), an organisation that helps boost exports of locally made products. The objective is to create true value out of local products and promoting sustainable economic development. Both ACEA and the eco-touristic pilot project are supported by the US Embassy in Tunis, FHI 360 and the Office National de l’Artisanat (ONAT), a government body.
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