Posted on January 06, 2020 in Press Releases


CONTACT: Tess Waggoner | | (202) 429-9210

Washington, D.C. -- The Arab American Institute Foundation is pleased to announce the launch of The MENA Artisan Initiative- a new endeavor that aims to connect artisans from across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region with entrepreneurs, small business owners, and art galleries in the United States.

The MENA Artisan Initiative is the first project of the U.S.- MENA Experiential Partnership—a one of a kind, pioneering initiative led by the Arab American Institute Foundation, with support from the U.S. State Department Middle East Partnership Initiative. It is the result of a year-long co-mentorship between Arab American public servants and the first democratically elected municipal officials in Tunisia, championing three core good governance issues: decentralization, participatory governance, and public private partnerships. 

Tunisia was selected as the pilot site of the Experiential Partnership as a recognition of the country’s progress and commitment to democracy, transparency and an empowered citizenry. As such, the MENA Artisan Initiative launches with a focus on Tunisia before expanding to neighboring MENA countries. Elly Rostoum, the Experiential Partnership’s Director, explained,

“the Initiative hopes to provide opportunity, stability, and dignity to artisans in the region, while fostering pride amongst Arab Americans about continuing the artistic heritage of our forebears.”

The Initiative has already started placing items sourced directly from Tunisian handicraft producers with small business owners in ten states and in the District of Columbia. To see some examples of the artisanal work the Initiative will feature and support, visit the Instagram page of the program here: @usmenapartnership