Motto:“I understand, you do not give us a fish, but offer a rod with which to catch it” – craftsman from the Sanpaul community, Cluj
What are the Romano Cher cooperatives?
The project will establish 30 social enterprises amongst Roma communities in the form of cooperatives which will mainly support the production and marketing of Roma crafts.
The reason we chose to support the establishment of such cooperatives is the socio-economic situation of Roma people, especially those living in traditional communities. Lack of access to quality education, lack of information, geographic isolation, the lack of jobs and decent medical services generates a vicious cycle which leads to poverty and social exclusion.
To break this social trend, it requires something more than short-term solutions with immediate effect but little or no impact in the long-term. In general, poverty issues should be resolved gradually using sustainable methods, generating benefits, and in turn, become solutions to the wider social issues. One such initiative is the social entrepreneurship.
How do you intervene?
The cooperatives employ existing resources and empower people affected by a social problems to generate local benefits. Moreover, this approach contributes not only to the traditions of Roma identity but also increases cultural diversity and promotes a society free of prejudice and discrimination.
The cooperatives a based on a small group of freelance craftsmen working on their own and having a minimum necessary logistics for producing handicraft items. We provide assistance for cooperatives by legal foundation workflows, organization of production and last but not least advice on obtaining orders. By increasing the number of people working together in an organized environment where there is the possibility of division of labor there are immediate benefits in increasing the production capacity of cooperative members. Providing a legal framework for their work allows them to sell their goods through distributors or at fairs, which increases the chance for their products to be known and bought.
Our goal is to support true craftsmen entrepreneurs and maintain and develop small local businesses around existing trades.
How do you support the artisans?
The free market is flooded with similar products produced which are generally much lower quality but very cheap. To be able to compete with these types of products, artisans working in cooperatives need to produce effectively to reduce costs
In almost all cases, these craftsmen are working in poor conditions with rudimentary, handmade tools. There are cases where we managed to build partnerships with local municipalities which have agreed to make provide the cooperatives free work spaces.
There is a need for investment in suitable workspaces and tools. Access to such resources would ensure efficient production by reducing losses and working time and increasing production capacity. As a result, the products are manufactured at much lower prices and are far more likely to break into the domestic market. Involvement of the community to train new artisans is the next step, but can only be done in parallel with the development of these cooperatives.
This interview was translated and edited from the Mestesukar website