Empowering Lebanese Women to Achieve Financial Independence

Aug 24, 2017

Beirut. Lebanon - As part of the partnership since 2011, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Country Office in Lebanon and Senteurs d’Orient, have teamed up with the Startline Foundation for the 2017 edition of the women empowerment program. The program is in line with the Sustainable Development Goals, targeting a set of objectives including empowering women in eradicating poverty, and eliminating illiteracy. It leads awareness campaigns through educational trainings that offer thinking and planning competences, decision-making and negotiation skills, and most importantly, develop a sense of self-confidence that prepare women for their communal and occupational leadership role.

The program targets five governorates: Bekaa, North, Beirut, South and Mount Lebanon. Its objective is to empower women, and direct them to financial independence, by lending a helping hand in launching their own business, or in being of assistance in their current profession.

The 2017 program design encompasses several distinct phases:

The first chapter of the program, which has been completed by end of August 2017, was extended during a 3 days’ period. It entailed training and networking; the completion of courses that offered competitive business ideas, and tools for cost-effective financing of projects, as well as techniques for professional progress, and served as a guide to developing ideas into tangible results.

The second chapter of the program consists of mentoring participants. On the basis that vulnerable women, subject to illiteracy and poverty are not exposed to basic information and know-how to establish startups, the second phase will be vital in that it grants participants access to an array of business material.

The third phase will prepare trainees for success in a competitive market. Competitive women with creative business ideas will be designated to the fourth and final chapter, where they will meet with potential investors to fund their startups.

Throughout the involvement with 5 target groups, in 5 different governates during the first phase, the President of Startline, Dr. Leila Abboud noted that her experience was insightful in that not only she was of help to women participants, but it also added to her knowledge as she expressed:

 “I lacked familiarity and understanding of the cultural, societal, and financial disparities across Lebanon.” She pursued stating that, “Traditional matters are barriers that hinder women from fulfilling their professional independence.”

It is after her first seminar in the Bekaa region, that Dr. Abboud, took matters into her own hands. She expressed her eagerness to empower women by passing through her knowledge and expertise to 25 women across Lebanon; It is a fact that Dr. Abboud’s involvement in the Bekaa led her to a feeling of commitment towards women that are thriving for financial independence:

 “I was gratified when I shared my entrepreneurial skills with women participants. Empowering women as leaders in their communities, and making it possible for them to become financially independent was rewarding,” adding, “My seminar in the Bekaa area was eye-opening, in that I quickly realized that there is a dire need in our country for women empowerment, a need for someone to stand up for them, to voice their concerns, and to guide them to financial independence and prosperity.”

As for the sessions in Northern Lebanon, the Startline Foundation President pursues, “I was profoundly touched when in Tripoli I noticed the extent of which women in this area are disadvantaged. They are deprived financial liberty, and denied financial awareness/(or)literacy, and education.”

While engaging in one on one dialogues with several trainees, they enthusiastically voiced their interest in the workshop. Most of the interviewees developed a sense of entrepreneurship in initiating their own business. Joumana Taher from Southern Lebanon is an example:

“I joined this program hoping to commence/(or) initiate a start-up; I have always been interested in owning a midwife private clinic. This seminar gave me hope, and a promise for a brighter future. Today I can say confidently that I have acquired all the necessary tools and skills needed for a thriving profession.”

As for Lina Abdo, from Sidon, she mentioned how the training highlighted her potencies, while transforming her weaknesses to strengths.  

 “I always presumed that I was doing good at managing my business, however, Dr. Abboud taught me otherwise. She helped me realized my weaknesses in handling my enterprise, while emphasizing on my strengths to better improve my occupation.”

Also, Hanan Itani, an enthusiastic participant from Beirut, mentioned how the workshop broadened her knowledge, stating that“The workshop taught me skills that I can incorporate in my upcoming business. I acquired about the market, about raw material, I also learned about competent uses of technology in machinery, and gained knowledge on customer demographic.”

Overall, the first phase of the training program was a success. A realization of women empowerment, guiding them to financial prosperity on one hand, and on the other hand, an insight to Dr. Abboud, who concluded stating that“It is indeed true that Lebanon is diverse in every aspect. What makes Lebanon unique is its capacity to encompass varied culture, traditions, norms and values from one region to another; I have encountered bravery and courage in the Bekaa region, authenticity in the Southern district, liveliness and vivacity in Beirut, yet poverty and deprivation did not hold back women from Northern Lebanon from their desire to evolve, and their aspiration to attain financial independence, nor from their wish to school themselves.”