The small, charming village of Misi, with its 1,200 residents and ancient history, has great potential for attracting visitors from nearby Bursa, the fourth largest city in the country.
In fact, over 2,500 tourists now visit the village every weekend.
Recognizing this as an opportunity too good to pass up, the women of Misi founded Nilüfer Misi Village Women’s Cultural and Beneficiary Association in 2010.
With the municipality’s support, they opened a restaurant, which offers traditional cuisine. Over 45 women from the village pitched in, taking shifts and working together.
Asiye Kürklü, 47, is one of the association’s founding members.
Previously, she had spent much of her adult life as a wife and mother, raising two children. Although she was making artisanal handicrafts and selling them, it was still her husband who provided for the family. She recalls:
“We actually only wanted to see that we can achieve something. None of us worked before. We got married, had children and raised them. Now, our children are 20 and 25 years old. We found ourselves in a limbo and we wanted to produce something. We started of here with a small business. We saw that we can be successful and we wanted to take this to a next step.”
It was at this point that Kürklü and her friends discovered the Future is in Tourism – Sustainable Tourism Support Fund, an initiative of the Government of Turkey, Anadolu Efes and UNDP in Turkey.
The fund provides local tourism actors with necessary guidance, tools, and resources to contribute to the sustainable tourism industry, through partnerships with both public and private institutions.
Asiye and her friends called the project 100 Percent Misia, and on October 2013, they received a grant from the fund.
Nagihan Dülger is also a founding member of Misi women’s association. She told me that the women have two goals:
- Reviving silkworm-breeding in Misi – once a great source of income for the villagers
- Improving the restaurant where they serve traditional food to provide a new source of sustainable income for the local women
‘The future is in tourism’ fund also went ahead and provided trainings on various topics, like entrepreneurship, accounting, handicrafts, silkworm-breeding, communication with people with disabilities, and computer literacy.
They even took offered English language courses, and now many of the women are fully capable of introducing their village to foreign visitors.
The fund also helped us purchase equipment for two houses provided us by the municipality.
“One is called ‘Silk House’ where we will breed silkworms, weave them and then make niche silk products. We will also use this house as a store where we will sell our products.
The second is called ‘Cocoon House’, a traditional Misi home, where we will serve our local cuisine to more tourists coming to our village,” Dülger added.
There are currently 46 women working in this project. With the two houses expected to be fully operational in September 2014, the number of women joining will likely increase as well.
Arzu Kutucu Özenen, a volunteer supporting the women in their tourism efforts, puts it best:
“I want my children and grandchildren to see and know the traditional Misi culture. We do not want to just increase the number of tourists, we want to improve the quality of cultural tourism in Misi as well!”