Turkia Saiidi launched her Margoum weaving business in 1999, during Ben Ali’s autocratic rule over Tunisia. Despite Ali’s policies to foster economic development, small and rural businesses suffered while the rest of the country prospered. This is the climate in which Turkia started her business.
In the first four years, Turkia’s business grew and she gained national recognition for her weaving. In 2003, she won the Golden Khomsa award from the National Office of Artisans for the most innovative product.
Unfortunately, with increased visibility came increased scrutiny for Turkia. In 2008, a TV station approached her to produce a documentary to showcase her success as a businesswoman. The government opposed the film; “they were concerned the film would expose the realities of poverty in my village,” she explains. Turkia took a stand and insisted on moving forward with the documentary. More than 270 women from her region stood with her as they watched the government destroy her Margoum factory in retaliation.
Turkia embodies the tenacity often linked to successful entrepreneurs. After her factory was destroyed, she worked as a maid to save money to re-launch her business. Today, Turkia’s persistence has paid off and she is exporting her products to Jordan and UAE, and has showcased her products at numerous international fairs. Recently, Turkia participated in Entrepreneurship and Innovative Leadership workshops at the WES Center in Gafsa and was able to make key contacts with businesswomen networks like the Chambre Nationale des Femmes Chefs d’Entreprises (CNFCE). She is now working with the center to identify new potential funders to expand her business.
Today Turkia is a successful businesswoman, employing 600 people. Turkia has always advocated for women in business and sees WES as a great opportunity for women in her community. She has committed to bringing 40 women to WES trainings in Gafsa to help them launch new businesses and contribute to the WES network.