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GK Collective: About the Makers

Snapshot

Where: Made in Azerbaijan, wool sourced from Turkey
When: Founded in 2018
Founder: Kifayat Talibzada
Workers: 25 women
Products: Slippers. View here
Materials: Wool, suede
Achievements: Won a grant from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), winner of the Gender Equality Prize 2022
Values: Fair Trade, improving livelihoods, empowering women in rural areas, keeping traditional cultural skills alive, providing meaningful work

"Once families have the ability to afford food, health care and good education, then they can look to grow in other ways."

- Kifayat, Founder

About GK Collective

In rural Azerbaijan where the majority of women don't have jobs or a social circle, local woman Kifayat Talibzada is building a community where women can knit together and improve their livelihoods. The social enterprise aims to provide meaningful and sustainable employment to women from low-income families in rural Azerbaijan by teaching them to knit socks and slippers using traditional skills and patterns. In the past, mothers would teach their daughters to knit 'jorabs' (knitted socks), however because Azerbaijan is becoming more commercialised, many women under thirty have not been taught these skills.

"I have come up with the idea to create jobs, to involve women in team work, to continue knitting carpet pattern socks tradition of Azerbaijan, creating bridge between producer and buyer."

- Kifayat, Founder

There are currently 30 women who are part of the GK Collective team. The women have the option to knit from home so they can earn an income while looking after their children. The organisation prioritises working with women from low-income families in order to have the greatest social impact.

Cultural restrictions have largely limited the ability of Azeri women to work, particularly in the regional areas outside the capital, Baku. This not only disempowers women but puts a huge amount of pressure on men to be the sole income earners, often resulting in poverty. GK Collective is helping low-income families to improve their livelihoods by recognising the skills and hard-working nature of Azeri women and providing opportunities for work. The increased income allows women to contribute to their families' earnings, enabling them to pay for essentials like food, healthcare and schooling. Having access to these basic needs means that families can look beyond daily survival, giving them space to bloom.

About the Designs

The art of sock knitting in Azerbaijan was developed around the same time as carpet weaving, so historically the socks feature motifs that are found on traditional carpets. The motifs differ depending on the region such as Karabakh, Gabala, Lerik, Shirvan, Shamakhi, Guba and Baku.

Meet the Makers

Kifayat - Founder

"I am Kifayat founder of AzerJorab, I was born and raised in a rural area of Azerbaijan where most women don't have work or a social life. Two years ago, I started to build a community for women in my home town that they can socialise and work together; empowering them inside and outside the home. Now we have 25 women in our team, wish to grow bigger in near future. I want to thank everyone for your support."

Shahla - Sewer

Meet Shahla, one of the GK Collective team members who sews suede soles on the bottom of slippers. Slippers tend to be slippery without suede soles.

Shahla was born and raised in Turkmenistan, she moved to Azerbaijan after getting married. Having her on our team is fantastic, because she is very passionate about her work.

She finishes a full week's worth of work in 2 days, even though we give her plenty of time, she cant stop being fast.

Nargiz - Knitter

Nargiz is from Masalli in the south part of Azerbaijan. She had been learning to knit long slippers since childhood. First it was a hobby then it turned into a job.
She knits our best Azerbaijani ethical long socks.

Firana - Knitter

This is Firana from the village of Masalli. She has been knitting since she was 7 years old and is passionate about this craft skill.

Gunel - Knitter

Gunel is a 26-year-old Mum from Shaki, who has two kids. She learnt knitting when she was 10 years old which lately has helped her support family financially. Our best socks and new designs are created by her.

Support the Makers

You can support these artisans by purchasing GK Collective slippers here.