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The earthquake women network

Jun 20, 2013, 05.37 PM IST

The earthquake women network
The “EmiliAmo” team in front of earthquake rubbles.
Together with the historical centres of the townson the Emilia Plain – from Mirandola to FinaleEmilia, from Cavezzo to Novi and from San Felice to Concordia -, the earthquakes that hit the area in May 2012 wiped out hundreds ofsmall businesses: shops, bars, workshops, 90% of which managed by women, collapsed from one day to the next or were closed due to unsafe access. The owners did not however give up and, under the guide of Claudia Miglia, 39 years old, consultant and expert in professional training, set up a network which has grown over the months and grown to give a role and hope to 500 businesswomen. The network is called “EmiliAmo”, a play on words which means Amo l’Emilia (I love Emilia), but really means the desire of the protagonists not to give in to desperation and to regain control of their destiny, despite the many difficulties they’re facing.

A year after the earthquake we could say that the experience has been a success and now numerous activities have been reopened inside containers, in wooden huts or in structures like “Il centro in galleria”, the indoor square in Mirandola. It started like this: “The day after the second shock, on the 29th of May, (editor’s note: the first was on the 20th) with a series of telephone calls we formed a group of about fifty owners of small businesses – says Claudia Miglia -: clothes shops owners, beauticians, hair dressers, tobacconists, women who owned the businesses in the historical centres of the towns before the earthquake. We met at dinner on the 5th of June and said that we had to start up again”.

They identified the first way of doing do in the markets set up in the municipalities of the provinces struck by the earthquake, Modena, Reggio Emilia and Bologna, in collaboration with the local administrations. “We spent the whole of summer 2012 travelling around the markets, selling our products, and at the end we had set aside 200 thousand euros which we used to sustain the businesses”. When you get caught up in an event as huge as an earthquake, explains Claudia Miglia, what you need is “plenty of imagination and the ability to run”: this is how the women that belong to the association succeeded in selling Parmigiano Reggiano for a value of 300 thousand euros, “through our contacts and buying groups. We succeed because we are a team, one person on their own cannot do anything”.

Claudia Miglia is the coordinator and for every town damaged by the earthquake there is a woman who acts as contact for the network. It isn’t just a question of business strategy, there’s also a fundamental psychological-emotional aspect: “EmiliAmo immediately helped us overcome the desire to cry over our devastated shops, because travelling around the markets or even just getting together for a pizza puts you in a good mood”, adds the founder of the no-profit association. With the arrival of autumn, to overcome the sense of discouragement, the women of the network organised events like “Beauty and Fitness” in Mirandola, in collaboration with all the town’s gyms.

Then there was a lottery in Cavezzo which involved 90 businesses, where, for every 10 euros spent, customers were given a ticket offering them the chance to win a discount in another shop in town. Naturally there is also merchandising: t-shirts, badges, breakfast cups, stickers, all with the EmiliAmo logo and the slogans of the network, the Facebook and Twitter accounts. With summer 2013 we’ll be holding a series of parties, the first in Cavezzo on the 15th of June, entitled “Dal terremoto al tortellino”, where participants will make handmade pasta, there will be cake design and visual food workshops and cookery courses for stressed-out managers will be held. Because, to quote Claudia Miglia, “I challenge anyone to create a winning format when the houses are crumbling like crackers, yet our experience can be replicated”.