With ILO assistance, two young Roma women "embroider" their way into the world of business in Moldova
04 October 2023
The twin sisters Ana and Anastasia Dohan from Soroca create small tales on canvas and shape their future on the job market.
Half a year ago, the twin sisters Ana and Anastasia Dohan from the town of Soroca, located in the northern part of Moldova, did not know how to handle the needle and the thread. Today, they create small tales on canvas and shape their future on the job market.
In their 20s, neither of the Dohan sisters has ever thought that they would enjoy embroidery, nor did they suspect that it could become a source of income for them. This was so until the moment they accepted the proposal of Soroca District Employment Directorate to participate in a training programme provided by the Union of Folk Craftsmen with the assistance of the ILO. The programme was dedicated to unemployed persons from socially vulnerable groups and included a practical training to learn a trade and find business opportunities as a result.
Ana and Anastasia agreed to participate in the programme out of curiosity, but also because they needed help. A few years ago, when they had barely finished primary school, the sisters accompanied their parents to Russia for work. They worked with their parents, selling goods in the market or helping them with various household chores. They never managed to continue their schooling or find a formal job. The pandemic forced the Dohan family to return home and, lacking a source of income, the girls turned to the Soroca Employment Office for assistance. Being of Roma ethnicity, without education and formal skills, it was practically impossible for them to find a job.
"The Roma population continues to face discrimination and stigma. It is deeply rooted in our society. Most employers are reluctant to employ Roma; having no training, they are the first to benefit from social assistance, which, however, cannot be a long-term solution. The partnership created with the ILO represents an opportunity for them to get employment or become self-employed", explains Marina Mynascurta, the head of the Soroca Employment Office.
Thanks to the programme implemented with the assistance of the ILO, within three months, Ana and Anastasia Dohan were able to learn sewing and embroidery techniques from the folk craftswoman Valentina Boțoroga, who was their mentor throughout the programme and who continues to guide them today. "They attended classes with the precision of a Swiss watch: they never missed a day or were late for the classes. Still, the job was not an easy one for them, I would say it was rather complicated for them to read the schemes and count the cells. But they had the ambition to move forward", says Valentina Botoroga. Ana also recognizes that at the beginning she really resented the needle that didn't obey and the thread that vehemently opposed to follow the necessary course. Anastasia explains that when one of them got impatient, their mentor would come with encouragement or advice and help them overcome the difficulties. As soon as they began to master the needle better, the girls discovered the charm of handmade items. Since then, they have been creating various works, in particular tablecloths and napkins with floral design. At the beginning of this summer, they participated with their most successful works in the annual Fair of Folk Craftsmen "At the Edge of River Nistru" in Soroca.
The folk craftswoman together with her apprentices has already started to prepare for the next events and exhibitions. "Look, what a Christmas story is about to emerge!", says Valentina Boțoroga, as she shows us a dark blue canvas, on which the snowflakes shine and silver stars are skilfully embroidered. According to her, an advantage of this programme is that in addition to developing knowledge and practical skills, the girls also receive a scholarship and all the necessary equipment and materials for the art of embroidery. Since all the items were of good quality, the Dohan sisters got a good start on the labour market.
She also claims that at present handmade items are in great demand, both in the country and abroad, that is why she considers embroidery to be a promising career. For Ana and Anastasia, embroidery is now their biggest passion and there is no day when they do not practice it. With time they do not exclude the possibility of transforming it into a small family business.
According to Diana Dicusar, the chairwoman of the Union of Folk Craftsmen, each apprentice was guided by a mentor, a folk crafts practitioner who helped them develop the practical skills in the art of embroidery, stone carving, woodworking or braiding. In addition to the craft lessons, the young men and women also attended a training course in entrepreneurship, to be able to launch a business, and received legal assistance in registration of a business.
On-the-job training in the craft sector is one of the areas supported by the Local Employment Partnership (LEP), an initiative launched by the ILO at the beginning of 2023 in the Soroca district, with the aim of contributing to the creation and formalization of jobs at the local level, especially for socially vulnerable persons. The LEP in Soroca has brought together a number of public and private institutions to improve the situation on the local labour market and to identify entry-points for job creation and formalization.
Like the Dohan sisters, most Roma girls and women face obstacles in their employment. The low level of formal education and conservative gender roles in the family are among the main factors that limit their access to the labour market. Through such projects, the ILO facilitates their placement on the labour market and contributes to reducing their social exclusion and discrimination on the basis of ethnicity.
The Soroca LEP aims at creating and formalizing approximately 200 jobs by the end of 2023. Additionally, 24 small and micro enterprises will receive assistance in expanding, and 26 businesses will be launched in various sectors, such as beekeeping, agricultural production, and the creative industry. The LEP will also assist in developing a training curriculum to improve the practical skills of young people in the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) field. More than 1,000 inhabitants of Soroca district, including people at risk of social exclusion, will enjoy the opportunities offered by the LEP, and more than 1,500 people will indirectly benefit from the results. The initiative was launched by the ILO in partnership with the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection and Soroca District Council.