UNDP's Project Unleashed Our Inner Entrepreneur
Mariam Banian (Um Adham), 38 years old is a mother of 6 kids who has never dreamt of being the owner of an outlet shop located on the main road of Mghayer Al-Sarhan area in Mafraq. Her husband’s disability has been always a challenge but her soaring high spirits and his support of her business endeavors lead to her life-changing experience at UNDP’s Emergency Employment Project (3x6 approach) project.
We had it in us to be proactive and successful this whole time but only after participating in the Emergency Employment project that we discovered ourselves.
26 years old Abeer Al-Assem has a degree in fashion but as job opportunities are scarce in her community; she worked as a cashier and data entry at one of the military associations in her area for a while.
Mariam and Abeer met through the Emergency Employment (3x6 approach) project after they teamed up to renovate an old building to turn it into a book library for the community as part of the community initiative component of the project. Mariam and Abeer’s team cleaned, painted and rallied to the capital to collect books from major cultural institutions to provide people in their neighborhood with a chance to read without having to commute to Amman, the capital to buy books, something that most families in the area can’t afford. Their initiative is still a remarkable success after one year as one of the local NGOs adopted it. “I’m now a member of that NGO” says Mariam excitedly.
When the time came to choose a business idea, Mariam and Abeer coincidentally shared the same idea. Mariam had a modest experience buying second-hand clothes and selling them to women from her two-room apartment and Abeer was thinking of opening an outlet shop for women as none existed in the area. There was one shop in the greater Mafraq area and people in their community thought it was expensive and far away. “Women in our community feel at ease dealing with us as opposed to buying from men. They even appreciate that we have set-up a simple fitting room inside” Abeer adds.
Mariam explains how they went to Amman and Irbid governorates to study the markets their and learn how to apply the idea in Mafraq: “We talked to retailers and suppliers and visited shops to get an idea of quality and prices”.
To reach out to women in their area, Mariam and Abeer distribute flyers after Friday’s prayer. Men often take the flyers to their wives and daughters. They also take advantage of social media and instant messaging to stay connected to their community, obliging everyone’s requests.
About the challenges they faced, they both talked about how the project boosted their self-esteem and changed their personality. They were shy and reluctant, Abeer says: “I couldn’t do a simple thing like introduce myself properly, now I volunteer at community initiatives and lead in meetings. I was shy, but after participating in the project and owning this business I became the head of Al-Sarhan’s Young Women Association”. Being part of the community initiatives, their perception of things men only can do has changed; they have seen girls painting pavements, building and cleaning in the street.
The Emergency Employment (3x6 approach) project has made a significant change in their income too. Mariam describes it by saying she stopped being embarrassed when her kids need money and she has none her purse. Abeer talks proudly about her economic achievement: “I was unemployed, now I support my family and I helped my brother travel and work abroad”.
About making profit in a small community, they explained how they came up with a smart idea that makes it possible to sell people now and be paid later. In Mghayer Al-Sarhan, most of the households get their income from pensions and modest monthly salaries hence most of people can’t afford to pay cash all through the month. Mariam and Abeer found a way to help them and make profit at the same time, they have set a credit limit for each one of their customers based on information they have about them in addition to their buying habits.
Looking into the Future with Confidence
Abeer and Mariam have benefited from the monthly incentive they earned through the project but are now fully independent. After sustaining their business by following a demand-driven model they are now pondering numerous ways to expand including small financing loans. They hope to introduce more products and services such as accessories and tailoring.
They couldn’t do any of this without UNDP’s project and the continuous support it provides. Mariam says: “we had it in us to be proactive and successful this whole time but only after participating in the program that we discovered ourselves”.
Mariam and Abeer are now considered role models in their community; other women with business ideas seek their advice and they couldn’t be more proud of challenging the norms and paving the way for other ladies to follow in their footsteps.
It is worth mentioning that UNDP’s Emergency Employment Project (3x6 approach) in Al-Sarhan area, Mafraq governorate is funded by The Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) in collaboration with the National Microfinance Bank and the World Food Program.