Knit-Art brings communities together
The Knit-Art project
Women like Sultan, living in rural areas in the northern part of Cyprus, usually work in their small-sized family farms. Their work and skills are generally undervalued and geographical, social and economic factors do not encourage their entrepreneurship.
"I was fed up with cleaning the house" – says Sultan – "At home the day didn’t pass. Joining Ayten’s knitting group for me was a way out of my boring days. My husband and my children laughed at me – As if at home you don’t have enough to do! - he told me, but this was the first time ever since I got married that I felt I was doing something for myself.”
The EU funded and UNDP supported KNIT-ART project was born from the dream of one woman – Ayten Huseyin to create a women’s knitting cooperative:"If you go to any Cypriot village you will easily find women who can knit. Each of them has knitted something for her daughter or son or grandchildren. But they all knit in their homes. Most of them never even considered knitting a skill. For them is just part of their home-routine. With this project I wanted to show them that knitting could open them doors bigger than their yarn drawer. As a designer myself I knew that they could do it", explains Ayten.
The Management Centre of the Mediterranean provided Ayten with the technical support needed to realize her dream.
"When with Ayten we started to bring the Knit-Art project on a journey through Cyprus’ countryside we saw what she meant. Everywhere we stopped with our knitting machines, we found talented and interested women welcoming us. All they needed was some encouragement, guidance and a cooperative to facilitate their work when designing and selling their products” - says Melis Eroglu that together with Jale Canlıbalık and Mehmet Erdogan coordinated the implementation of the project from the Management Centre’s watchtower.
- 75 women from 4 different villages in the northern part of Cyprus took part in the Knit-Art project
- 6 knitting machines were donated by the European Union through UNDP-PFF to allow the women to continue their activities
- More than 900 women took part to similar social and community empowerment projects in different villages in the northern part of Cyprus during 2013.
- On the occasion of the Karpasia/Karpaz Green Festival CATOM women produced 140 handmade bags and other products are now for sale in their shop at the centre of Rizokarpaso/Dipkarpaz
The first phase of the Knit-Art project took place within the EU funded and UNDP-PFF supported call for proposals for cultural activities in the northern part of Cyprus. With a small grant of 7000 EUR, phase one brought together 40 women from 3 different villages (Tremetousia/Tremeşe/Erdemli, Kalyvakia/Kalavaç Louroukina/Lurucina/Akıncılar). Each village received a 4 weeks training and the project ended with the creation of a women’s knitting cooperative called “Sisters”. Three knitting machines were donated by the EU through UNDP-PFF to each participating village to allow cooperative's members to continue their production after project completion.
"With my first products I gained 26 TL (8 euro)” tells Elif laughing,"but I felt so proud of myself. It wasn’t about the money, it was that I did it myself. Ever since I got married I had never worked and I had never thought that something I could make could have an economic value. I didn’t even expect this much. But the more orders we started to receive, the more exciting it got!”
Based on the success of this first experience, and also not to leave the “Sisters” alone during their first crucial year, a second phase of the project – worth 15,000 EUR was funded by the European Union and supported by UNDP-PFF under the call for proposals for Karpasia/Karpaz.
"For most of the women taking part in the first phase of the project, it wasn’t about the knitting or the promise of a profit. It was about their social life. Living in Cypriot villages where coffee shops – traditionally considered “for-men-only” - is in most cases the only social and community space available, being able to access, through my workshops, a social space within their community for themselves, where they could relax, forget about their home duties and finally start to build a network of support has empowered them in their everyday community lives” – explains Ayten – “In Rizokarpaso/Dipkarpaz where such space for local women already existed through the work of the local women’s organization CATOM, with whom we partnered for the second phase of the project, I tried to develop new marketable products that would help promoting the Karpasia/Karpaz region but at the same time would help the cooperative to go beyond its social dimension", she adds.
12 knitting, crochet and felt workhsop were carried out between January and May 2014 and 3 knitting machines were donated by the EU through UNDP-PFF to help improving the women’s efficiency and technical capacity. A learning exchange event between the women who took part in Phase 1 and Rizokarpaso/Dipkarpaz’s women took place in May 2014.
For many of Rizokarpaso/Dipkarpaz women it was the first time out of their village or their region, and a knitted blanket donated by the women of the four villages to UNDP on the occasion of the Karpasia/Karpaz Green Festival remains as token of friendship and future collaboration amongst these women.
“We have participated in this project as ÇATOM with the hope that the women of Çatom will be able to turn the skills they learn into economic income. I would like to thank everyone but especially to Mrs Ayten Huseyin for their contributions to this Project,” adds Arzu Purtul, Çatom Manager.
During 2013 only, more than 900 women from different villages in the northern part of Cyprus took part in similar projects aiming to empower rural women's community and social life through handicrafts workhops.