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Women Empowerment in Hima Al-Qoleileh: a story of change

Tala Moukaddem *

SPNL is implementing project titled “Promoting Hima Women Empowerment for Conservation and Livelihood” and funded by UN Women Fund for Gender Equality. The project aims to improve women livelihood through acquired skills and better income opportunities in Hima Sites including Hima Anjar, Hima Kafar- Zabad, Hima El- Fekha. Himas of Qoleileh Mansouri.

Last year Hima Al-Qoleileh was added as a new site to work on in the project. The first step was to gather a group of women who are interested in the project; however this was a challenge since it should be done in a specific way first to attract the women and then to keep them interested throughout the project duration. Most of the women showed interest and even contacted their relatives and friends to join the project and attend the trainings.

Unlike the other sites that we worked in during the project, we approached Qoleileh in a different way based on our previous experiences in the previous sites. Instead of beginning with trainings on CEDAW and women’s rights followed by leadership & decision making trainings, we decided to begin with the skills trainings to motivate the women and keep them persistent in the project since the women in Qoleileh are financially in need and thus, through trainings on skills we can help boost their livelihoods through income generating activities. This showed to be a good approach to keep the women engaged. The skills trainings were initiated in September, 2014 by a designer that we appointed. The designer trained them on skills such as hand-made accessories made from natural resources, sea shells and other used material, pebble painting, shell crafts, painting on fabric, stenciling and stamping, paper crafts, and painting on glass. A series of 10 sessions were conducted.

On the first training session that took place on September 20, 2014, 12 women attended the training on accessories-making from the two villages Qoleileh and Mansouri. The main objective of the first training was to test their capability of learning and their commitment, which turned out to be very good. When leaving, they asked for colored threads to take them home and start making bracelets on their own. However, one of the women, Aazab Hassoun, caught my attention. She stepped in, un-invited and simply decided to stay and join the women in the training. At first, she was struggling the most in starting her first bracelet. However, she was very persistent and keen on learning the technique needed. As a result, after 30 min of struggling, she was finally able to make her first bracelet and then she was able to do three of them faster than all the other participants. She then left before the training was over and seemed like she was in a hurry taking with her some extra threads and material. When the training session was over and as I was leaving, I spotted Aazab sitting in front of her grocery shop facing the municipality and still making bracelets. I was overjoyed to realize that she had left her main source of income that was her shop to come join the training and learn something new. Not only that, but she continued to do it while in her shop.

I consider this a story of change, how she changed her behavior and was very persistent to learn the technique and she didn’t give up. This shows that we do have motivated women in our society that are able to learn and strengthen their capacities to enhance their livelihoods. Aazab should be a role model for other women who claim that they cannot do something because she really proved otherwise through her hard work and determination. In only 1 training session she took a step forward and was able to believe in herself and in her capabilities. After that training session, Aazab never missed any training session, leaving her shop and attending the trainings. She is one of the most committed women that really believe they can make a change. She is also helping in motivating all the other women and encouraging them to attend the trainings.

It was also noticed that during the training sessions, women were working at a faster rate than was expected and thus, we had to increase the amount of material to keep up with the women needs of raw material. This shows that the women are able to learn and increase their capacities if given the chance and this is what the project is providing them with. This gives hope for the next trainings on CEDAW and women rights, leadership and decision making and gives a positive vibe for women to be later integrated in in the decision making process.

*Project Manager – SPNL

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