The Success Story of My Little Maroc: A Pandemic-Launched Business Aiming to Empower Women Artisans

Even in 2022, there is still a long way to go before women experience true equality. More than half of women around the world have fewer economic rights than men, according to a recent World Bank report on gender equality. In 95 countries, equal pay is not guaranteed, and there are 86 countries where women are subject to job restrictions. In addition, legal restrictions that prevent women from participating fully in the economy still exist in 178 countries.

Despite the fact that women are still frequently mistreated, there are still plenty of reasons for optimism and a great number of people striving for equality and gender equity, such as the two working mothers who are on a mission to advance female entrepreneurship in Morocco via My Little Maroc.

This pandemic-launched home furnishings business by close friends Lina Kettani and Vanessa Salome is booming at a fast pace and aims to empower Moroccan Berber Women, by bringing work to the remote villages of Morocco's underprivileged artisans in a Fair Trade dimension.

A problematic system

"When I went to visit Lina in Morocco in 2004, it was always a man selling me a rug with the story, 'It was made by this woman and here's the village it came from,' but they couldn't tell me any more about the woman or the history behind it," recalls Salome. "I was left wondering why we can't connect with the women directly, or why aren't the women in a position to be selling these rugs themselves."

A deeper look into the situation revealed a problematic system: the rugs are made by women who live in isolated villages and follow long-standing traditions. Brokers then purchase the rugs at a reduced cost from small-town markets, occasionally working together to jointly underbid and lower prices. The rug is then heavily marked up before being finally sold to tourists. Despite the fact that most of the work is still done by the original artisan, brokers and shop owners still keep a sizable portion of the revenue.

"Even though I grew up in Morocco, I didn't realize how communities of artisans are neglected and continue to be the weak link in intricate supply chains," shares Kettani. "It's heartbreaking to see how difficult it is for most working women in Morocco to be valued and respected, no matter which sector of business they are in."

A straightforward plan

My Little Maroc strives to empower the local artisans while becoming the top vendor of handcrafted Moroccan artisanal goods in the United States and eventually the world. Rugs, poufs, pillow cases, baskets, and pottery are among their current offerings--with plans to expand to clothing and additional home furnishing items. Their short-term goal is to provide high-quality, luxurious, handcrafted artisanal products at a more affordable price.

"My Little Maroc is a COVID baby," Kettani says. "Over the years, we stayed in touch with the artisans and met a few new ones. Our primary jobs and daily lives, however, limited our ability to launch sooner. Full-time jobs and being full-time mothers are demanding, but when COVID arrived, children were homeschooled, everyone worked from home, and the artisans were in desperate need. At first, I didn't think My Little Maroc would grow this fast and be this time-consuming, but when you love what you do, you manage to find time, especially when you see the true joy it brings to our artisans, as well as all the support from our clients - that's just everything to me."

In addition to helping them achieve financial independence and self-improvement by selling the artisans' designs under fair conditions, the pair aims to preserve and reinvent Moroccan craftsmanship.

What is the importance of empowering women in your opinion?

Salome: "I believe that empowering women on a global scale is a way to build a more civilized and peaceful world. In addition to running households and taking care of families, these women work incredibly hard. Our pieces currently take anywhere between two and seventeen months to produce. These weavers deserve all the praise for their incredible craftsmanship. We hope to provide them with the confidence and fortitude they need to value their art and create a sustainable life by paying them fairly and reinvesting the profits back into the company."

My Little Maroc

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