Women join forces to promote El Guettar’s heritage

January 19, 2022

El Guettar is a historical town in Gafsa. Located near a green oasis and mountain, the area is known for its pistachio trees and wild plants. Gleiya Sediki holds a degree in Geography and is president of the cooperative “Gouvern’elles”. The young entrepreneur is proud of her region with its thousand-year-old past and the healing properties of its wild plants.

“The idea of the cooperative (in Arabic, “فاعلات” which means women in action) came simply from our desire to take matters into our own hands. United with other women like me, graduates and unemployed, we thought about how best to bring an income to our families by valuing wild mountain plants like thyme and rosemary… through the extraction of essential oils.”

An initial group of 16 women represented by Gleiya contacted the authorities in 2017. Supported by the local environmental association for sustainable development in El Guettar, this group benefited from a technical support in essential oil extraction, beekeeping and cosmetics for three years, and obtained their equipment. In March 2021, she announced to her 26 members the official creation of “Gouvern’elles” cooperative. She also spared no effort to get a professional card and to obtain from the authorities a premises at a symbolic cost.

“Since summer 2021, we have been supported by the project Mashrou3i to develop our social impact in El Guettar. How can we contribute more to our region and to the development of its local resources? How we can bring more women into the group? How can we promote the group’s activities and raise funds? I found help from the Rural Women’s Unit and the coordinator of the illiteracy program. We are teaching women in reading and writing, extraction of essential oils and how they can grow plants like geranium and mint and earn an income from it.”

With Mashrou3i’s support, Gleiya is becoming aware of the importance of entrepreneurship training for women and is learning how to secure new partnerships and raise funds. This support also helps her to promote her products, such as her participation in the Fair of Kram, and to develop a brand identity for the group’s products. In October, they took part in the 3rd Tunisian competition for local products and won a bronze medal for their rosemary-flavored olive oil.

In terms of success, the women entrepreneurs of Gouvern’elles are still at the beginning of their journey and many challenges await them. They will be able to overcome them thanks to Mashrou3i and its support in managing the supply of raw materials, developing a product niche in honey derivatives, and opening a second unit equipped with an essential oil extractor.

“During our last workshop with Mashrou3i in November, we benefited a lot from networking. I was able to start discussions with representatives of the GDA Atahadi in Siliana and Menzel Mogar in Medenine, who will be able to supply us with plants. We currently have 20 beehives to make soap and soon we will benefit from the know-how of the GDA Assalna to teach our members how to make candles from beeswax.”

All these projects that show all about the promising future of “Gouvern’elles” and its impact on many women of Elguettar helping them to turn into social entrepreneurs and develop the sustainable resources of the region with the support of Mashrou3i.