Lyemna Lassouadi has worked in the handicraft sector for more than twenty years. She is from the underdeveloped Kasserine governorate, an area suffering from high levels of unemployment, especially among women. “First I started working in my house,” said Lyemna, “I made some special things that were unique. So, I had this idea to make a business out of this and help people get started making these halfa [woven straw] baskets.”
Lyemna began producing a variety of decorative and functional objects woven from halfa, but faced many challenges. Responding to large orders was challenging, and she was unable to find qualified workers in the region or afford to organize and fund the cost of training for unqualified workers. “I had a lot of ideas about what to do,” said Lyemna, “but I didn’t have the means to implement them. When I talked with…BRCP, it’s like I was drowning and they threw me a life preserver!”
BRCP’s workforce development team collaborated with Lyemna to develop a new, effective sourcing strategy, beginning with the involvement of local village authorities and organizing information days to gather potential candidates. Motivated candidates were selected to attend pre-employment training sessions on halfa weaving techniques.
“They also help me with the commercial part, how to talk with clients, how to market and display our products…With this kind of program,” said Lyemna, “I can grow my business. With this kind of training, I have opportunities.” Her opportunities are also opportunities for women in the region.
Said one of the trainees, “As soon as we heard this training was happening, we came, we’re very happy. When Madame Lyemna came, we’re learning how to work with Halfa and are learning a lot…We want to train ourselves, to know people, to know how to talk in public. We’re always at home, we never go out. So, when Miss Lyemna came we wanted to evolve, to learn something new, and to meet new people, and to have our own money. Because Kasserine is always left behind, this training is our best chance to improve our position.”
Lyemna is happy to provide work for her neighbors. “Housework, taking care of the sheep, that was the only work they used to have. The only time these women can meet each other is when I come to work with them. When we get together, each lady talks about what they’re up to.” In the future, “each one of them will have her own business license,” said Lyemna, “and each can have her own income.”
The collaboration between BRCP and Limam Hermassi led to 30 full-time jobs for women in Hannachi and Feriana in the underdeveloped Kasserine region.