Tunisia, Cross-border
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MIT Arab Semi-Finalist Vintage Tunisia: Empowering Underprivileged Women Artisans

“Vintage Tunisia was born when we visited ‘Kesra’ last year. Kesra is a village on top of the mountain in Siliana, Tunisia with such marvelous landscapes and warm people … During our visit, ‘Khalti Dorra’ opened her heart and shared a glimpse of her life with us: a story of social injustice that we couldn’t forget easily. Many women in rural areas inherited incredible artisanal skills, yet, living far away, they could not reach their potential customers. Nevertheless, merchants buy from them at very cheap and undervalued prices and sell the products in the capital bazaars for highly exaggerated prices.”  This is what Mouna Balghouthi, one of the co-founders of Vintage Tunisia, a semi-finalist of this year’s MIT Enterprise Forum Arab Startup Competition, explained to BarakaBits.

Vintage Tunisia, co-founded by Mouna Balghouthi and Salmine Sassi, is an e-commerce platform designed to address the poverty situation the residents of the Siliana governorate face. According to the Tunisian National Institute of Statistics, Siliana faced a 27% poverty rate in 2015. Balghouthi explained that “we decided to approach this poverty issue by developing a fair e-commerce platform which promotes artisanal products abroad, delivering the finest handcrafts directly from the underprivileged women artisans houses to the customers door steps.”

With the objective of empowering rural area women artisans, Vintage Tunisia invests in the artistic skills of these underprivileged women by bridging the gap between them and their potential clients. How? They do so through their e-commerce website specialized for selling handmade crafts and shipping them to the door steps of the customer.  What makes Vintage Tunisia unique is that they directly contact their artisans (underprivileged women) in request of samples of their beautiful handmade carpets and handcrafts in order to showcase them on their platform by using images right from the heart of the artisan’s home. With Vintage Tunisia in control of the shipping process, Siliana artisans no longer need to worry about delivering their finest handcrafts. “Vintage Tunisia is also determined to take a part in protecting their cultural heritage and preserving their cultural identity for the generations to come”, explained Balghouthi.

The 2015-2016 MIT Enterprise Forum Arab Startup Competition is Vintage Tunisia’s first competition, and according to Balghouthi,  the moment they received the great news of being selected as a semi-finalist of the ‘Social Entrepreneurship track’, they felt “more motivated than ever, despite the time strain and knew that it was time to step up”.

Vintage Tunisia’s team believes that their participation in this competition is:  “a life perspective changing opportunity, where Arab youth gather not only to compete but also to learn from each other’s experiences. The fact that we made it that far, means we are ‘special’ young entrepreneurs. It is a competition, true, but we are and have mutually benefited by observing and learning from each other. As a result, this competition has given us the opportunity to create lasting bonds within a short period of time, which will help us in widely spreading our projects, especially among Arab countries”.

Stay tuned as the 9th MIT Enterprise Forum Arab Startup Competition winners will be announced on April 14th, 2016. 

Don’t forget to leave a smile 🙂 in support of Vintage Tunisia! To learn more about Vintage Tunisia follow them on twitter.

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