To mark International Women’s Day 2017, MEDA is highlighting important issues and voices around women’s economic empowerment and gender equality in the area of economic development. This is the sixth in our “Be Bold for Change” blog series celebrating the power of women entrepreneurs and their partners around the world.
The Jordan Valley Links project, implemented by MEDA, supports 25,000 women and youth in the Jordan Valley to seize new opportunities in targeted sectors and to become economic actors. The goal of the project is to increase the contribution by women and youth to Jordan’s economic growth. The project focuses on three sectors: clean technology, food processing and community-based tourism. Over five years (2016-2021), MEDA will improve women and youth’s entrepreneurial and business acumen through capacity building and market linkages; and working with communities, families, and market actors to reduce entry for enterprise development for women and youth. One of the activities of the project is to highlight roles models within the areas that we operate and here is one of those stories of gender parity.
Meet Enas. 15 years ago, Enas passed the national exam and got accepted in public university, but couldn’t go to university, due to her family limited financial capacity, so she stayed home. She focused on her interests, which included: glass painting, staining and making accessories, serving as a trainer at a summer camp, where she started a paper recycling training activity for school students.
Meet Fakhri. Fakhri was born in Palestine in the middle of huge apple farm and moved to Jordan. When he met Enas 14 years ago, he was a sales person for food company, where he developed a good network with market actors and their services.
Together Enas and Fakhri initiated the idea of producing apple jam and vinegar as home-based business and worked hard to fundraise for their initial seed funding from a Finnish organization. Enas and Fhakri started their small project by buying a few tons of apples during winter, cutting, and storing the apples for a long period within specific conditions and then manually squeezing the apples to produce the vinegar.
As the demands for more apple vinegar increased, the production began to slow down due to finances and space limitation. That’s when Enas heard from a friend about the International Youth Foundation’s Badir initiative, which supports entrepreneur’s projects, funded by Starbucks. Initially, Enas lacked confidence to apply for the opportunity due to her limited English and knowledge of information and communications technology (ICT) tools. But after encouragement and support from a friend, Enas applied.
In 2012, Enas became one of Badir selected entrepreneurs. She said it was one of the best moment in her life, when she received the news! Enas said “I didn’t expect that they will consider someone from a very rural place and not educated, but I won and that was for me equal to million dinars even more! I felt I am really existing in this big world now.”
She received a comprehensive training from Badir initiative trainers, that enabled her to plan, market and mange her business. Additionally, the project allowed Enas to improve her basic computer and technology through the ICT training and English skills through her interactions and networking with other entrepreneurs and sales agents. Enas has now mobilized and recruited women and girls from her community to cut apples for her business, which she shares with her husband Fakhri.
Fakhri main role is marketing the final products to sales agent and shops outside Amman, in addition to transporting the girls and women, who work as employees to their business, as mobility is often a challenge within their community.
Enas and her husband, Fakhri, managed to be first, life partners and later, project partners, who broke stereotypes around financial responsibility and women’s leadership around their small village, Al- Khashfeyah. Both are very passionate about empowering others, especially disabled girls and women.
Al Kashafeyeh community had never supported such project, as many in the community has a conservative mindset about women participation in the economy and their lack of mobility. Members in the community didn’t want to accept the idea of having a woman leading an economic development project, earning money and deciding how to spend it. But from this experience and Enas advocacy of her project benefits and encouraged her peers to join her project to generate income.
Encouraging women and girls continues to be a challenge for Enas and Fakhri. Both encourage women’s and girls’ to join their project as beneficiaries and trainees. Until last year, Enas and Fakhri did not have a separate venue to work on their project activities. They have worked hard to sell their products at bazars and shops all over the country. Enas and Fakhri have managed to save enough money to build a second floor for their home to have a secure and safe space for women and girls to work. They have also managed to buy a machine that is essential for the squeezing of the apples instead of doing it manually.
Enas and Fakhri are now considered in their community as change agent and role models as successful business owners. As we make a pledge to #BeBoldForChange today, it shows the need to also showcase stories of both women and male gender champions, whether they be members of the communities or husbands. Male gender champions, like Fakhri, support and help women to achieve their ambitions, to become leaders, and the value of women for their equal contributions. We cannot have international women’s day or role models, like Enas and Fakhri, without men who are partners for life and success. So, let us celebrate, entrepreneurs (male and female) fighting for gender equality!