After raising her two children, Taghreed Ramadan, an Egyptian fashion designer, decided to pursue her dream of having her own atelier designing wedding dresses and evening gowns. She also dreamed of upgrading the quality of local handicrafts, especially among underprivileged women.
“I have always planned to give two hours weekly to social activities as affecting others’ lives always greatly impacts me,” said Taghreed Ramadan, a fifty-year-old fashion designer from Cairo.
According to the Egyptian Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics, four million Egyptian families are run by female breadwinners. A total of 52% of them are illiterate unaware of their basic rights and needs. Therefore, starting in 2014, Ramadan decided to volunteer and teach underprivileged women sewing skills from scratch. A volunteer from a local social initiative called El-Ezba 2025 then reached out to her to move her social work to a new level.
According to the Egyptian Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics, four million Egyptian families are run by female breadwinners. A total of 52% of them are illiterate unaware of their basic rights and needs.
The initiative mainly works in Ezbet Khairallah, one of Egypt's biggest informal neighborhoods. The plan was to teach a group of ten women sewing skills and provide them later with sewing machines to ensure having a sustainable source of living and help them work independently at their homes.
“After distributing some sewing machines, we realized that the women would be competing against each other. Therefore, we decided to launch our workshop for them,” said Ramadan.
The idea behind the workshop was to teach more women sewing skills and have them work together under the supervision of Ramadan. The women started producing various products, such as table cloths and bedsheets, and their efforts were later transformed into a social enterprise called Button Up.
Button Up depends on the women of Ezbet Khairallah to produce a variety of products, such as tote bags, laptop sleeves, and notebooks. In addition to her ongoing sewing classes, Ramadan has become responsible for the quality control of the enterprise guiding the women throughout the production process.
“I’ve been working with them since their first sewing workshop. The place is always open for us, and if you want to work on something private, you can use their machines,” said Eman Mansour, a 38-year-old craftswoman for Ezbet Khairallah.
Since 2016 up till now, Ramadan has taught more than 60 women of Ezbet Khairallah the craft. She has also taught around 30 women from Upper Egypt and a group of 20 breast cancer survivors. All of them can use the brand’s machines, free of charge, for their individual use, and they’ll get Ramadan’s help. Besides, around 20 of them frequently participate in the enterprise’s product lines, and they get about 20% of the revenue of their products.
“I always thought I wasn’t good at anything, but they encouraged me with their boosting words. I started to develop my sewing skills, and I have become the youngest member of the Button Up family,” Said Rowayda Sayed, a 22-year-old craftswoman from Ezbet Khairallah.
Sayed and the other women said that their experience with Button Up has increased their self-confidence and improved their social skills. It helped them be active members of their families and contribute to positive change in their community.
“I was always home and never went out or dealt with new people. They made me feel that I have a higher goal to fulfill, and I dream of having my own place where I work on my machines with my customers,” said Mansour.