By Eleni Courea
A GROUP of unemployed women have banded together to sell handmade goods, in a government-backed effort to make a living in the midst of a bleak economic climate.
With good will and entrepreneurial spirit, a “self-sustaining team of unemployed women” has been formed, with the support of the Nicosia Municipality and its Multifunctional Foundation (Polydynamo Kentro), under the banner of a government-led programme named ‘Creating Social Projects on the Street’.
The women make and bake their own products, including homemade sweets and handmade jewellery, and sell them at bazaars. They come from all walks of life, but they all speak positively about prospects, and the experience they have gained from participating in the scheme.
“At first, I was pessimistic. The change I had to go through was very abrupt – it’s not easy to make a living with skills you’ve never used before. But this group effort has helped me immensely, by providing an escape from the anxiety of debt and bills,” one woman named Eleni told the Cyprus News Agency, adding that people should never remain passive in the face of difficulty.
Eleni has been unemployed since 2012, when the company she worked for as a secretary went bankrupt. She now makes desserts for the “self-sustaining women’s team”, and while she has applied for the Guaranteed Minimum Income, she has received no response yet from the labour ministry.
Another woman in the team, Myroulla, used to work for over ten years at a major company, which has since had to cut staff and close down several branches because of the crisis.
A third woman, Elena, used to rent a small shop where she sold her hand-made jewellery, but the rent was too high and profits too low. While she is grateful to the government for its free provision of spaces for these women to continue their work, she has not stopped looking for employment elsewhere.
Bazaars were held on November 30 and on December 21 and 28 at the ‘Myloi’ Cultural Centre in Kaimakli. During the holiday season, the team was given one of the small wooden houses on Christmas Avenue (Makarios III) to sell their products.
The Director of Nicosia’s Multifunctional Foundation, Roula Georgopoulou, said the municipality’s role was to support the ‘Creating Social Projects on the Street’ programme by providing facilities and coordinating the effort. She hopes to secure European Union funding for the project in the new year.
According to data from the Statistical Agency, in the third quarter of 2014 almost 32,000 of the 70,000 unemployed people in Cyprus – or 45 per cent – were women.