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Devin D. Thorpe
Devin Thorpe

Dobra Torba: Women Rediscover Their Talents With Good Bags In Serbia

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Beautiful, practical and as strong as the women that make them. This is how Dobra Torba (serbian for “good bag”) defines itself. The project was born with support from Smart Kolektiv and the organization’s project manager, Ivana Stancic, is one of the social business’s initiators. Her current work is organizing its operations, especially building bridges between buyers and the women who sew the bags, but she ensures that her intention is “having all the process handed over to the women from the sewing associations”. Therefore, there is work of identifying leaderships so that the business manages to be run without her supervision.

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Dobra Torba currently relies on 5 women who activate their network of sewers in their communities for each order placed to and forwarded by Ivana. “Virtually all of them already had sewing machines at home and are excellent professionals, from the time when Serbia had a huge textile hub (in former Yugoslavia)”, she explains.

The associations support women who unite themselves to find a way of living a better life. They are women above 55, form Serbia’s rural areas, who otherwise rely on the low pensions paid by the government, partly due to the gender pay gap, and who are out of the groups favored in job offers. Enter Dobra Torba. According to Ivana, for each bag sold, you can see a tangible result in these women’s lives. Nowadays, all the profit raised is used to pay the sewers.

The empowering work of the good bags go beyond giving more money to the workers so that they can afford a more dignified life. By choosing to work with these women’s associations, the initiative also works as a role model.

“Other initiatives are arising, they are organizing themselves and willing to form new social businesses. Our work comes to show them what they are able to”, Ivana ponders

The main challenge faced by the brand is reaching prices competitive enough, comparing to chinese goods. The bags are usually bought for events or corporate branding activities by companies and governmental organs. “But it is impossible to reach their prices, when our goal is offering a fair pay and respect everyone in the value chain”, Ivana comments. The solution found was using the experience of many women in the associations to develop a unique model. The good bags are foldable and have slide fastener. Also, a new model is under development, smaller and more simple, so that the brand has an entrance product, more competitive with chinese prices.

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As next steps, Ivana tells us that there will be training to women who want to join the initiative but don’t know how to sew. “We want to think also in other similar programs, we realized that the model is amazing, so we are starting other small, local initiatives that allow us to include more women in the production process”, she concludes.

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