Stronger together: The empowerment story of ‘Frigg*’ women through small-grant support


The Kütahya Entrepreneur and Artisan Women’s Association
The Kütahya Entrepreneur and Artisan Women’s Association is taking steps towards institutionalization and digitalization through the small-grant support. Photo: UN Women/İlkin Eskipehlivan

* Frigg: Goddess of Motherhood and Fertility in Norse mythology.

Since 2014, the Kütahya Entrepreneur and Artisan Women’s Association (KÜGİKAD) has been supporting artisan women in Kütahya, western Türkiye, gain greater recognition and visibility. Through small-grant support from UN Women’s EU-funded Strong Civic Space for Gender Equality project, KÜGİKAD is now on-track to becoming an established brand and cooperative.

With its unique cultural heritage, Kütahya is a UNESCO Creative Cities Network Member. For generations, a wide range of traditional handcrafts have been passed down through Kütahya’s female artisans – including bone china, embroidery, marbling, felt, relief, carpet and rug weaving.

Skillfully turning their hopes, dreams and the deep-rooted culture into works of art, a group of craftswomen in Kütahya came together in 2014 and set out with the dream to create a network to promote their work to wider audiences.

KÜGİKAD President and Founding Member Şule Erdem in her bone china workshop.
KÜGİKAD President and Founding Member Şule Erdem in her bone china workshop. Photo: UN Women/İlkin Eskipehlivan

“We began our journey with the motto ‘union is strength’,” explains Şule Erdem, President and Founding Member of the Association. “Some women in Kütahya do not even have a workshop; they make their products at home. As KÜGİKAD, we support their higher visibility. The more women’s initiatives in Kütahya strengthen, the more our association grows stronger.”

Thanks to the capacity-building trainings provided within the project, KÜGİKAD is now taking its first steps towards becoming a more structured and regulated civil society organization.

Secretary-General Seçil Kantar shares how the small-grant has accelerated their development process: “Thanks to the small-grant support of UN Women Türkiye, we learned how to reach more people, digitalize our systems and facilitate the information flow between our members. As a result, we are now more proactive, more professional, and more confident in our work.”

Adding that the Association has reached almost 30 women with the trainings, Kantar highlights the importance of being their voice: “Through our trainings, many artisan women, as well as our association members, have learned how to reach wider audiences to showcase their products. We are overjoyed to gather hardworking craftswomen under the same roof and host such valuable trainings.”

KÜGİKAD member and embroidery artist Ayşe Arıcılar with her work.
KÜGİKAD member and embroidery artist Ayşe Kaçan with her work. Photo: UN Women/İlkin Eskipehlivan

“The social media trainings helped me reach new followers and new customers. I am now more confident and capable of selling my products through social media platforms,” says embroidery artist Ayşe Kaçan.

Social media coordinator and association member Süheyla Arıcılar explains how the capacity-building trainings have created an impact: “I learned professional photography and social media marketing at KÜGİKAD’s trainings. I am now managing the Association’s social media accounts by photographing our craftswomen’s work, which reflects our cultural wealth. Social media is a means to make your voice heard, and I’m happy to be the voice of artisan women in Kütahya.”

Süheyla Özberk takes photo of the craftswomen’s work.
Süheyla Arıcılar takes a photo of the craftswomen’s work. Photo: UN Women/İlkin Eskipehlivan

Now, KÜGİKAD has a new objective: to become a cooperative. Communications Coordinator Ayça Karakuş shares their future plans and brand name: “‘Frigg’ represents a strong, resolute, and beautiful woman. She also represents hope. Bearing that in mind, we have decided to create a brand named ‘Frigg Kadınları’ (Frigg Women). Frigg Women will be the seed of our hope, which will thrive as we deliver the work of craftswomen in Kütahya to all of Türkiye.”

Under the Strong Civic Space for Gender Equality project, financed by the European Union and implemented by UN Women Türkiye, civil society organizations like KÜGİKAD receive small-grant support.

“Women’s organizations are crucial in providing opportunities for the empowerment to women, with women. They have an integral role to play in achieving gender equality and advancing women’s rights,” says UN Women Türkiye Deputy Country Director Zeliha Ünaldı. “In this context, we as UN Women find it valuable to support the capacity building of civil society organizations and will continue to become a part of their challenging but empowering journey,” Ünaldı adds.