[:en]Massimo Milano with Quir: a success story enhanced by the project Pandora[:]

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Massimo and Gino represent much more than founders of a boutique. Massimo originally from Rome, and Gino from Milan, they have been an LGBTI couple for 40 years now, and together they decided to found Quir in Palermo 25 years ago, in the historical district of Ballarò. Quir specializes in the manufacturing of leather products, such as bags, belts, and wallets, handmade by its founders, who are now a symbol not only of a successful entrepreneurial story, but also of sexual freedom and human rights. “Palermo did not use to be as open-minded as today. 25 years ago, when we first moved here from Rome to open up the boutique, you could hardly see any LGBT around. We were the only ones and we had to overcome many cultural and social barriers, in addition to the economic issues of running a new business”, says Massimo inside Quir. She is President of the campaign Palermo Pride, an Advocacy Programme aimed at raising awareness about the rights of LGBTI people, and together with y she founded ARCI gay back in 1981, the very first association in Italy formed to represent the LGBTI community. “Prior to us, there was no formal association in Italy for the LGBTI community. We quickly became a reference point for many people who felt like they were living at the margins of society. Here they could be listened to, and we could all be ourselves”, she explains.
“You have to bear in mind that we started this peaceful battle when no one else in Palermo even knew what not being heterosexual meant. Civil unions between LGBTIs only became legal in 2016 in this country. People come to Quir to buy leather products of course, but there is much more to it than shopping. There is a sense of belonging and community based on these long-term battles”, Massimo proudly tells me. She remembers facing many difficulties with their business at the beginning. 

“For a long time we had practically no clients at all. Only recently we can say that local people here have accepted us into their community. Although I should say that I don’t like the term “accept” because being LGBTI is something natural and in that sense I don’t feel it should need to be accepted.”, she continues. When we ask her what advice she would give to women interested in opening up their own businesses she stresses how things have become much harder today because of high rates of unemployment. In addition, she thinks that women face a double barrier: One due to the general levels of unemployment faced by all young people today and the other due to gender discrimination at work and in society. “You need to be strong and determined, because as a woman you will always need to fight more than men in order to get what you want and what you are entitled to. The one advise I feel like sharing, is to always try to be creative. Creativity is what saved Gino and me, and of course Quir. Only if you are creative, you can truly be free to choose in life.”, she concludes.

 

For more information: www.facebook.com/quir.mg/[:]

[:en]Laura Di Fatta with Sartoria Sociale: a success story enhanced by the project Pandora[:]

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Laura Di Fatta and her co-workers truly are an example of how social work can go hand in hand with entrepreneurial business projects and personal development. They founded the social enterprise Sartoria Sociale in 2012 with the mission of transforming discarded textiles into resources by creating new clothes and items to be revitalized on the market. Sartoria Sociale is however also a project for giving opportunities to people with fewer opportunities who are excluded from the labour market, especially minorities such as migrants, incarcerated and victims of human trafficking. “The first step to restoring a person’s dignity, is to provide work,” Laura points out and talks about the importance of breaking down stereotypes by working with people in difficult life situations. For her and the other social workers at Sartoria Sociale this is closely connected to community development. When new customers enter our premises, they often presuppose that Sartoria Sociale is only a laboratory, but after learning about the tailors’ backgrounds, they understand that buying a product here supports community building and development. The fact they support a social enterprise which is standing up against corruption and blackmailing of local businesses, also makes their customers willing to spend more money on artisanal products because of the added ethical value. Sartoria Sociale takes part in the anti- Mafia movement “Addio Pizzo” which can be translated into “farewell protection money”. Laura explains that “this is a choice of legality, it’s a message. Those who come in here know that we are against these, let’s say, ‘mafia proceedings’, and our clients show a sign of respect for ‘the greater law’”.

Although Sartoria Sociale has become well-known in Palermo for their entrepreneurial, social and artisanal projects, balancing these three aspects can be challenging. An important part of their social work is the time-consuming training of new tailors which affects the productivity level and raises product prices. After spending some time in their shop and studio I however understand what Laura means when she describes the enterprise as a combination of social work, fashion and tailoring with a firm base in entrepreneurial self-development. Satorial Sociale’s philosophy is that everyone who comes to work in the cooperation has an entrepreneur in them. “Working as an entrepreneur is difficult; working as an entrepreneur and being a women is even more difficult,” Laura tells us when we ask her to share her experiences on female entrepreneurship, and while elaborating on the obstacles related to gender, she concludes with a positive note: “The fact that almost all of us are women, our president is a Nigerian women—gives an idea of redemption, social and professional redemption.” One the successes that women who work in Sartoria Sociale are achieving, is the opportunity to feel and act like entrepreneurs by transcending the stereotypical categories related to their gender. When we ask Laura about the advice she would give to women who want to become future entrepreneurs, she stresses the importance of self-confidence and to gather a team of people who share your values and principles. “Make your own work a commitment – this is a fundamental resource.”

 

Sartoria Sociale website: http://sartoriasociale.com[:]

[:it]Saffron from the UK tells us about her impressions of IRETI project[:]

[:it]Arriving to and being in Palermo is a strange, yet wonderful experience. An authentic robust city, filled to the brim with loud, rich culture. Palermo seems somehow untouched by society and the greater world, and I’ve been told quite a few times that Palermo is the closest thing, in terms of living, to Africa.

 

For me, as an African who has never been to the motherland, it’s very interesting to witness a community, which is likened to Africa, but it is even more interesting as the African community is prominent and proud. A walk through Ballaro will show you just how much, but there is a lingering question that remains whens coming across this community “Where are the women?”

 

The streets are dominated with males, and it makes me wonder, as someone who is in Palermo to work on the IRETI project, which explores the sex trafficking of the Nigerian Benin women with H.R.Y.O, where are the women of the African community? They’re rarely seen, and I then begin to wonder about the things I have learnt so far during my time here in this project.

 

Joining our mentor Alessandra to meetings quite often at Casa Mediterranea delle Donna, where we were able to meet with other women who worked with organisations revolving around Domestic Abuse, Women’s Rights, Prostitution and Sex Trafficking and creating safe spaces for women, I was able to learn of a law that has been implemented in Palermo, one that has banned women, during peak tourist times, to be within certain areas wearing revealing clothes. This was to defer those women who are either prostituting or have been sex trafficked from working in a space that the tourists, or the locals would see, causing them to hide, or worse, to be trafficked elsewhere.

 

It’s absurd to think that behind Palermo’s initial encapsulating charm, that below the surface lays a world that is rife with violence, drug abuse, sex trafficking and a government that would rather hide than protect. A world that not only makes you think about the safety of the migrant women, but one that makes you think of Palermo’s systems in whole.

 

The little I’ve seen, and the little I’ve learnt in my stay here has been both worrying and comforting- on one hand I see a community that seems tight knit, freedom, a village mentality and spaces that have been created to help migrants, integrate cultures, protect women and keep the community spirit of Palermo alive; and on the other, I’ve seen first hand the poverty, the lack of opportunities, the lack of societal structure and the divide in class and culture.

 

Still, without a doubt, I can say that I have fallen in love with this city and the way of life here, but more must be done.[:en]Arriving to and being in Palermo is a strange, yet wonderful experience. An authentic robust city, filled to the brim with loud, rich culture. Palermo seems somehow untouched by society and the greater world, and I’ve been told quite a few times that Palermo is the closest thing, in terms of living, to Africa.

 

For me, as an African who has never been to the motherland, it’s very interesting to witness a community, which is likened to Africa, but it is even more interesting as the African community is prominent and proud. A walk through Ballaro will show you just how much, but there is a lingering question that remains whens coming across this community “Where are the women?”

 

The streets are dominated with males, and it makes me wonder, as someone who is in Palermo to work on the IRETI project, which explores the sex trafficking of the Nigerian Benin women with H.R.Y.O, where are the women of the African community? They’re rarely seen, and I then begin to wonder about the things I have learnt so far during my time here in this project.

 

Joining our mentor Alessandra to meetings quite often at Casa Mediterranea delle Donna, where we were able to meet with other women who worked with organisations revolving around Domestic Abuse, Women’s Rights, Prostitution and Sex Trafficking and creating safe spaces for women, I was able to learn of a law that has been implemented in Palermo, one that has banned women, during peak tourist times, to be within certain areas wearing revealing clothes. This was to defer those women who are either prostituting or have been sex trafficked from working in a space that the tourists, or the locals would see, causing them to hide, or worse, to be trafficked elsewhere.

 

It’s absurd to think that behind Palermo’s initial encapsulating charm, that below the surface lays a world that is rife with violence, drug abuse, sex trafficking and a government that would rather hide than protect. A world that not only makes you think about the safety of the migrant women, but one that makes you think of Palermo’s systems in whole.

 

The little I’ve seen, and the little I’ve learnt in my stay here has been both worrying and comforting- on one hand I see a community that seems tight knit, freedom, a village mentality and spaces that have been created to help migrants, integrate cultures, protect women and keep the community spirit of Palermo alive; and on the other, I’ve seen first hand the poverty, the lack of opportunities, the lack of societal structure and the divide in class and culture.

 

Still, without a doubt, I can say that I have fallen in love with this city and the way of life here, but more must be done[:]

[:it]Tina from Romania shares her first impressions of IRETI project[:]

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There is no doubt that the idea of volunteering abroad is a big leap of faith into the unknown, so when I first heard about “IRETI- Empowering Women and Strengthening Socioeconomic Integration” project in Palermo, I just said “No”. I thought I had multiple reasons to refuse: I was feeling I was too old to participate. I was frightened not to accommodate easily in a new city and environment. I feared not being able to fully relate to the topic or simply not being able to help enough. But then, I started to wondering myself if finding excuses for not going, not trying or not helping are actually..not helping me? So, with this in mind, I decided to give it a try, after all, in the worst case scenario, I could just call it quits and just return home. Useless to say that wasn’t the case. My first week here passed in a heartbeat, adjusting myself living in Palermo being surprisingly easy, as was discovering Palermo’s rich culture, history and of course the vibrant nightlife.

As the days passed and we started focusing on our project here, I started feeling overwhelmed. Our first task here implied research work: getting to know better the phenomenon of human trafficking, and we found out alarming numbers. In 2014, the trickle of a few hundred women a year grew to nearly 1,500. The following year, it increased again to 5,600. In 2016, at least 11,009 Nigerian women and girls arrived on Italian shores. The numbers for  2018 are expected to be in the same ascending line. The journey, for these girls is a nightmare of abuse and violence, many are forced into prostitution already in Libya in the so-called connection houses to start paying the debt contracted with traffickers at the time of departure – which varies between 20 and 50 thousand euros – and that is often signed by a voodoo ritual, known as juju oath. They believe that if they don’t fulfill their obligations, demonic spirits would haunt them daily and eventually drive them mad. The help exists, though; some organizations or NGOs are fully committed in assisting them to break free from their traffickers. Unfortunately, most NGOs initiatives to change the status quo are blocked due to the lack of funds and of the authorities’ disengagement to resolve the problem. Only an extremely small part of victims of human trafficking are are placed in a safe house, which is supposed to try to integrate them into European life with school and job training, with the goal of becoming independent. Having this information gathered, I wondered how these women felt physically, psychologically and emotionally after they escaped from that hell. Well, I met them through Donne di Benin City, an organization whose goal is freeing the victims, but at the same time making the voices of the victims heard by the public institutions. As surprising as it may be, these brave women found strength to laugh, enjoy life and look forward to the future with optimism and hopefulness.[:en]There is no doubt that the idea of volunteering abroad is a big leap of faith into the unknown, so when I first heard about “IRETI- Empowering Women and Strengthening Socioeconomic Integration” project in Palermo, I just said “No”. I thought I had multiple reasons to refuse: I was feeling I was too old to participate. I was frightened not to accommodate easily in a new city and environment. I feared not being able to fully relate to the topic or simply not being able to help enough. But then, I started to wondering myself if finding excuses for not going, not trying or not helping are actually..not helping me? So, with this in mind, I decided to give it a try, after all, in the worst case scenario, I could just call it quits and just return home. Useless to say that wasn’t the case. My first week here passed in a heartbeat, adjusting myself living in Palermo being surprisingly easy, as was discovering Palermo’s rich culture, history and of course the vibrant nightlife.

As the days passed and we started focusing on our project here, I started feeling overwhelmed. Our first task here implied research work: getting to know better the phenomenon of human trafficking, and we found out alarming numbers. In 2014, the trickle of a few hundred women a year grew to nearly 1,500.

 

The following year, it increased again to 5,600. In 2016, at least 11,009 Nigerian women and girls arrived on Italian shores. The numbers for  2018 are expected to be in the same ascending line. The journey, for these girls is a nightmare of abuse and violence, many are forced into prostitution already in Libya in the so-called connection houses to start paying the debt contracted with traffickers at the time of departure – which varies between 20 and 50 thousand euros – and that is often signed by a voodoo ritual, known as juju oath.

 

They believe that if they don’t fulfill their obligations, demonic spirits would haunt them daily and eventually drive them mad. The help exists, though; some organizations or NGOs are fully committed in assisting them to break free from their traffickers. Unfortunately, most NGOs initiatives to change the status quo are blocked due to the lack of funds and of the authorities’ disengagement to resolve the problem. Only an extremely small part of victims of human trafficking are are placed in a safe house, which is supposed to try to integrate them into European life with school and job training, with the goal of becoming independent. Having this information gathered, I wondered how these women felt physically, psychologically and emotionally after they escaped from that hell.

 

Well, I met them through Donne di Benin City, an organization whose goal is freeing the victims, but at the same time making the voices of the victims heard by the public institutions. As surprising as it may be, these brave women found strength to laugh, enjoy life and look forward to the future with optimism and hopefulness.[:]

[:it]Diamo il via al progetto “IRETI – Empowering Women and Strengthening Socioeconomic Integration”[:]

[:it]Ci siamo! Il progetto “IRETI – Empowering Women and Strengthening Socioeconomic Integration”  è ufficialmente iniziato.

Il 12 e il 14 Dicembre abbiamo ospitato a Palermo i rappresentanti delle organizzazioni partner provenienti da Spagna (Biderbost Boscan & Rochin BB&R), Inghilterra (Ubele Initiative) e Romania (A.U.R. Asociatia Nationala a Specialistilor in Resurse Umane).

Il progetto è stato co-finanziato dall’Agenzia Nazionale Indire all’interno del programma Erasmus plus della Commissione Europea.

Sono state due giornate intense durante le quali abbiamo avuto modo di conoscerci, condividere le esperienze delle realtà locali e costruire insieme le basi per un percorso di scambio internazionale che ci accompagnerà per i prossimi due anni.

Il progetto IRETI nasce dall’incontro con un volontario di H.R.Y.O. proveniente dalla Nigeria, che ci ha fatto riflettere sulle condizioni che le ragazze provenienti dalla Nigeria e soprattutto dalla città di Benin City si trovano ad affrontare. Infatti, l’ltalia detiene un triste primato nello sfruttamento della prostituzione e i dati a livello europeo sono allarmanti.

Queste donne sono reclutate con la promessa di una vita migliore. La maggior parte delle vittime ha 17-28 anni, un basso livello di istruzione e proviene da famiglie povere. Una volta raggiunta l’Europa, vengono immesse sul mercato della prostituzione che diventa una trappola per molti di loro. Poiché vivono in un ambiente svantaggiato, sono spesso vittime di violenza ed esclusione sociale senza avere una reale possibilità di uscire dalla prostituzione.

“IRETI – Empowering Women and Strengthening Socioeconomic Integration” nasce dal desiderio di quattro organizzazioni non governative provenienti da Italia, Spagna, Inghilterra e Romania per sostenere queste donne.  La scelta della parola IRETI non è casuale, in Yoruba, la lingua più parlata in Nigeria, IRETI significa speranza. Il progetto mira a migliorare i processi di integrazione sociale, la promozione della parità tra uomini e donne e in particolare l’uguaglianza attraverso la promozione di imprenditoria femminile.

Per rispondere all’esigenza di fornire una formazione capace di dare input costruttivi e reali, abbiamo deciso di creare uno spazio per queste donne. Questo spazio si concretizzerà in momenti di formazione e confronto e servirà ad aumentare le loro competenze a livello informatico, linguistico e tecnico/commerciale e contemporaneamente a formare operatori nell’ambito dell’educazione agli adulti.

Il progetto permetterà ai partecipanti di entrare in contatto con una realtà multiculturale e creare una rete dove idee, passioni e sogni potranno entrare in contatto ed essere confrontate.[:]