Several shopping malls in Bahrain are hosting special exhibitions during Ramadan that offer goods made by "productive families", a term used by the Ministry of Social Development to describe low-income families working in cottage industries.
The exhibitions are part of a ministry-sponsored project to enable low-income families to cover their needs in a sustainable way and develop and market their products at home and abroad to benefit Bahrain's economy and community.
"I have been working with woodcraft for quite a long time and never thought to turn my craft into a source of income," participant Rashed Ahmed told Al-Shorfa.
"Thanks to the productive families project and the exhibitions associated with it I have secured a good source of income and am now able to meet my family's [financial] needs," he said.
"There are a good number of people who want to buy woodcraft that reflects our rich historical heritage, like the large wooden ships (bawanish) that were used in fishing and pearling, and wooden boxes of all sizes that are reminiscent of our beautiful past," Ahmed added.
Ahmed urged other heads of households to benefit from the project to secure a steady source of income for their families, starting by consulting with the Ministry and al-Usra (Family) Bank to obtain the necessary funding and moral support.
Ahmed said he intends to participate in similar exhibitions in the near future so his handicrafts gain more prominence, adding that he will also think about marketing his products outside the kingdom.
Currently, there are 600 productive families registered with the Ministry of Social Development.
This week at a mall in north Bahrain, 32 of those families are participating in a productive families exhibition titled "Made in my home". The exhibition features a variety of products, including perfume, incense, spices, wooden sculptures, antiques and handicrafts.
Fatima al-Blushi, Bahrain's Minister of Social Development, also opened a "Made in my home" exhibition in late July in Adhari Park. There, 40 productive families displayed products like perfume, clothing, ceramics, accessories, spices, Ramadan food, Gargaon supplies and handbags.
In addition to the exhibitions, the project provides families with training courses, funding, specialised services like marketing and management, and production units like kitchens, sewing machines and devices to produce porcelain.
The project also provides a creative design unit to assist in product development, an information technology unit to support marketing in foreign countries, and a number of centres and permanent exhibitions in the provinces to boost sales.
Fatima Hassan, a regular patron of the exhibitions, said she always finds her household products at this type of exhibition, because she prefers homemade food and goods.
"It is wonderful to see a large number of productive families under one roof, as this allows me to easily peruse the latest products of Bahraini families, which I buy for their high quality," Hassan said.
"I found a wide variety of Ramadan foods and various types of abayas, perfumes and even accessories, which helps me prepare for Eid al-Fitr," she added.
Hassan said what distinguishes the exhibitions is their abundance of goods available at affordable prices, so any visitor can purchase their favourite food, clothing or handicraft.
Al-Usra Bank CEO Atef al-Shabrawi said there are thousands of success stories of productive families who rely on themselves as owners of small sustainable businesses.
He said the project promotes "a culture of productivity among a large segment of Bahraini families".
Bahrain's leadership role in advancing the project can be attributed to its support of family projects from beginning to end, he added.
"We sponsor the family from the product's initial conception through its various stages, including providing help with training, production skills, financing services and technical support, [helping] establish effective communication with professional networks and […] marketing by way of exhibitions and domestic and foreign distribution channels," he said.
Al-Shabrawi said "Bahrain is prepared to double the number of productive families, since its environment fosters an innovative and competitive spirit and helps empower Bahraini families."