FOOD BUSINESS MAKES A DIFFERENCE FOR MIGRANT WOMEN

“It’s my first occasion to prepare Arabic food and share my culture at the University of Malta,” Dounia Borg, originally from Morocco, said proudly as she observed budding entrepreneurs of the university’s business hub enjoying her home-cooked delicacies. Together with several other women, Dounia is an ambassador of sorts for the Saha! project, run by the Migrant Women Association. Dounia speaks fluent Maltese, cooks for various festivals and has even published a book about the Moroccan cuisine. Today she uses the success she has achieved to promote the project, which offers business opportunities for less fortunate migrant women.

Dounia Borg with Moroccan dishes she prepared for the closing event of the Take Off hub. Photo credits: Daiva Repečkaitė/ Eve

As the hub’s predominantly male mentee cohort is chatting away, plates in hand, Dounia can finally rest. Despite women like her striving to make the most of their ideas, it will take a while until the world of business truly opens up to diversity. Migrant Women Association, a migrant-run NGO , has found that Malta’s economic boom has passed migrant women by – the majority still struggle to find employment. Hence the idea to make use of the skill many migrant women are the most proud of – cooking. In collaboration with Jobsplus, the NGO came up with an initiative called Tastes of the World to fund food handling certificates for 20 migrant women in Malta. The women have already cooked for the Malta World Music festival, the RIMA film festival, and the Mediterranean Literature Festival. With Saha!, the association wants to take its pop-up cooking gigs to a new level and give migrant chefs more independence.

Last August, the project was among those shortlisted for Social Impact Awards and received three-months-long mentorship from Take Off – an entrepreneurship incubator at the University of Malta. “We help enterprises look at themselves more systematically,” Joseph Bartolo, the manager of Take Off, told Eve. He revealed that the initial idea was to teach migrant women languages and IT. Yet with this approach, the association would continue to depend on charity. When Steven Frigerio, a Maltese volunteer at the Migrant Women Association, came to Mr Bartolo to pitch the idea, the hub’s manager had something else in mind. “In their application, there was a little chart, which said that 80% of their people had competences in… cooking,” he remembered, and from this observation, the idea of a food truck was born.

The food truck idea was then nominated for Social Impact Awards this year. The awards, jointly organised by the Gasan Foundation and the Inspirasia Foundation, helped five winning projects with much-needed funding. Migrant Women Association’s project was not among the winners in the finals, but it raised €5,300 from the audience, a ZAAR crowdfunding campaign, matched by Core platform, and an additional grant. The total funds awarded to Saha! amounted to €16,600.

The plan is now to continue raising money for buying an actual truck. “We’re definitely going to have more events next year. We will work with Valletta 2018, big events, and private events,” Steven Frigerio plans. When the food truck is finally there, he is planning to send it to places like Mriehel, full of businesses but starving for quality food. “It’s not about making money in itself, it’s about letting every person come and cook,” he explains. “Once they get the skills, they will be confident enough to make their own business. This is literally and metaphorically a vehicle to provide them with a better future.”

Have you met the Saha! women at any of the festivals? Is there any cuisine you’d like to try?

Let us know in the comments section below!