In India, Shahla Raza worked as a documentary filmmaker and set up a community support center for migrant children and families in Mumbai. After reading about the difficulties refugees from Syria faced, she came to Türkiye in 2015 as a volunteer. She spent several months in the city of Hatay, then moved to Istanbul and established the Yusra Community Center and Inshira Collective to support refugee women in finding sustainable ways to earn a livelihood by providing them with skills training and increasing their technical capacities.
Initially founded as a social enterprise, Inshirah Collective embraces circular economy and sustainability practices to reduce waste and pollution while supporting vulnerable women from displaced communities through economic empowerment. The business upcycles fabric recovered from waste generated by textile factories, such as cotton from bedsheets and t-shirts that would otherwise end up in landfills. Using this fabric, Shahla and her team produce practical and unique household items, such as cleaning cloths that can be washed and reused as a replacement for single-use paper towels. “As textile waste is a huge problem globally, we didn’t want to buy fabric as it would add to the waste. We decided to use textile waste to make our products, which will reduce the use of plastics.”
Despite the benefits of their business strategy, the company does face challenges, such as changing consumers’ mindsets. For example, not all consumers in Türkiye are aware of the environmental impact their lifestyle choices generate. Building awareness is key to highlight their role in creating healthier and cleaner communities.
Other socio-cultural prejudices exist too, particularly about women leaving their traditional household duties to go to work. Inshirah Collective aims to promote sustainability while at the same time empowering women by offering skills training through courses in design and sewing, and ultimately inspiring them to set up their own businesses. In doing so, waste is reduced, materials are upcycled, and women become more socially and financially mobile.
Inshirah Collective demonstrates that creating sustainable businesses today is not a choice, but rather a necessity. Moving from a linear to a circular economy builds resilient and thriving businesses in a world where resources are scarce, and the protection of our environment and the overall wellbeing of society has never been more vital and urgent.
“So far, commercial businesses are taking from the planet, and we need to start giving to it. We don’t have too much time left to save the planet, so we need to make our businesses sustainable and profitable for the planet, not for us and not only to make money,” says Shahla.
Inshirah Collective is a powerful example of how the circular economy is integral to saving the planet, and how it can bring about positive social change.
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