In early 2020, representatives of the Everything Is Possible Charitable Foundation in Melitopol began creating a social inclusion enterprise that produces garments with the backing of the International Technical Assistance Project Partnership for Local Economic Development and Democratic Governance (PLEDDG). The initiative is being implemented within the framework of the SME Development Support Fund. The team is preparing to make textile goods for the Ukrainian market and for export. The social mission of the enterprise is to help women from vulnerable groups: victims of violence, internally displaced people, the unemployed, and women living with disabilities. Melitopol has never had a project like this before, since local businesspeople are mostly focused on maximizing their profits and have a low level of motivation to address pressing social issues, much like elsewhere in Ukraine.
The chosen line of activity of the enterprise could not be more relevant in the current situation in Melitopol. In recent years, many of the city’s export-oriented businesses have lost their sales markets and scaled back output, resulting in rising unemployment. The population has grown at the same time: many residents of Luhansk and Donetsk regions were forced to relocate to Melitopol, fleeing the armed conflict. Also, as many men have been involved in the armed hostilities, women have faced the challenge of meeting their families’ needs, financially and otherwise, on their own. The newly-formed social inclusion enterprise aims to support women by creating training and employment opportunities for them.
Replication of the Poltava experience demonstrates that the social inclusion business model can operate successfully and have a favourable social impact. Following the example of the Training and Production Centre in Poltava, the team in Melitopol will make dresses, blouses, tunics, and pinafores on a rolling basis. Foreign clients will handle procurement of essential materials and logistics, as well as the sale of end products. By the end of 2020, the enterprise will have created jobs for 10 to 15 women, thereby making its own contribution to efforts to improve the social and economic situation for Melitopol facilities facing challenging times.
As of September 2020, renovations are in the homestretch on the premises rented for the training and production facility. All the essential equipment has been bought with the aid of PLEDDG. The enterprise plans to launch full-scale operations in October. The COVID-19 pandemic necessitated certain adjustments to the initiative and slowed down the overall progress. It took a lot of extra time to re-purpose the premises for industrial-scale operations in accordance with newly introduced health codes accounting for the pandemic. And yet the team in Melitopol rose to the challenge and instead responded to the new needs of the city by filling their first big order.
To bring their textile goods to the European market, the team in Melitopol hired a social inclusion business development expert, Roman Drozd, co-founder of the Poltava-based NGO “Training and Production Centre Social Inclusion Enterprise”. They also plan to collaborate with the Zaporizhia Chamber of Commerce and Industry that will provide free consultancy and technical support.
In other words, the initiative brought to life under the auspices of PLEDDG will yield results in several areas at once: first, a boost to export operations of small and medium enterprises and, second, social and economic support for women in challenging situations and creating opportunities for their self-actualization.
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