Source: eKapija | Friday, 09.09.2011.| 12:27
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Laptop bags made by Etno Mreza - Handicrafts as blend of traditional and modern

When the fight for each new job is so intensive, every assistance, training and support is precious. These are only some of the goals of Etno Mreza (Ethno Network), the national vocational organization gathering women who make unique handicrafts, in the projects of which over 1,000 manufacturers from all around Serbia have been participating to date. Traditional, handmade products, made for centuries by women for their home, family and household, now have a contemporary value and are in everyday use. Among such products are bags for laptops, mobile phones or passports, embroidered towels, caps, scarfs, pillow cases, socks...

The works of these diligent women can be seen in Beograd Department Store for few days more, and the organizers of that exhibition say that the results are better than expected.

- We are satisfied with the number of visitors and many people have purchased our products, which is a sign that Belgrade lacks stores where such products can be bought. We have so far organized a big number of promo exhibitions in the capital city, but this is the first at which we also sell the exhibits - Iva Radic from Etno Mreza explains for eKapija.

Etno Mreza is comprised of 14 associations, but another 25 groups from all around Serbia participate in the projects of that organization, meaning that the network now gathers about 1,000 women. The oldest of them is about 65 years old, while the youngest is only 21.

- So far, our target customers have been large companies because we've been making business gifts only, but now we also produce souvenirs and clothing.

Etno Mreza was formed in 2007 in association with the USAID, and it operates independently since 2009, with a support of the Serbian ministries, Germany's GIZ, and the EU Delegation to Serbia.

Iva Radic stresses that this project contributes to women's self-employment, makes them stronger, develops them into leaders, market manufacturers and self-assured members of the community. That is even more significant when we have in mind that these women mainly come from rural areas.

Members of the organization are also engaged in the public works project and all handicrafts made for that purpose are used as the Serbian government's protocol gifts.

- As part of our latest project of June 1st, 120 women from 25 municipalities will be making gifts for the friends of our country. Traditional Serbian towels, laptop bags, bags for bottles are only part of the assortment.

Speaking about plans for the future, our interlocutor says that the organization will be expanded, that it will continue to educate women and improve the quality of handicrafts.

- We have opened a store at Nikola Tesla Airport and we are satisfied with the sales. Besides, we expect the city authorities to support our efforts to obtain a space to use so that handicrafts could be available during the whole year.

Through a project of the EU Delegation to Serbia, Etno Mreza will soon also start selling handicrafts made in Serbia via Internet.

M.K.

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