x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Dubai resident's passion empowers women in developing countries

Women in Pakistan and Zanzibar are being given a platform for their skills, thanks to Margaux Constantin.

DUBAI // A UAE-based businesswoman aims to provide women in developing nations with a much needed income and help preserve traditional skills by selling their handicrafts across the world.

Margaux Constantin, who has worked across the Middle East and Asia, hopes to empower women and help them to provide a livelihood for their families.

"I wanted to find a platform for these women's work," said the 28-year-old from France.

"Their skills and beautiful craft are expensive for their own local market. The non-government organisations that help these women do not need to rely on donors if they find sustainable high income generating markets for high quality handicrafts.

"I'm very passionate about this because I believe it can actually help women and change lives."

Ms Constantin has pinpointed two organisations in Pakistan and Zanzibar that offer flexible working hours, allow women to work from home so they can care for their children, pay wages higher than typical market rates and have low administrative costs so funds are passed on to projects that aid the women.

Groups of women aged 18 to 50 work with Behbud, a non-profit group in Pakistan's Rawalpindi area, and Upendo, a group in Zanzibar's Stone Town, to make children's clothes using traditional handwoven cloth.

These garments, sold in the UAE via the website www.babouka.com, cater to boys and girls aged four down to newborns.

"Girls come after college and mothers after they finish their housework to learn stitching and embroidery," said Maria, a project manager from Behbud.

"Once they finish learning, we give them work to complete at home because many women live in villages and cannot come every day.

"It is also a big support for these women because not only are they learning to be independent but we help them if they have financial problems at home, with school fees for their children and we also give them packets of food during Ramadan."

Ms Constantin, who works as a business consultant in Dubai, stays in touch with both groups and sends design suggestions she thinks would sell in the western markets.

In Pakistan, women undertake cutting and embroidery for a single outfit, while their counterparts at Upendo, the Zanzibar charity, work individually on pieces.

The idea of empowering women in distant towns and villages by purchasing garments in the UAE has sparked the interest of residents.

Zuleikha ,who purchased garments for her three-year-old daughter, said: "It's a fantastic idea and a great venture to open up different markets for these women who know traditional handicrafts."