Persons with disability are subjected to exclusion within their communities and this limit their participation and the services available to them in their community. For millions of young men and women across the world access to basic services, education, and job opportunities where they can actually learn and develop is challenging enough. However, in areas that are underprivileged or underserved, an additional hurdle such as disability can prove too difficult to overcome. Ahmad Naser from Amman didn’t have the opportunity to pursue his university education after he completed high school for several societal and financial reasons, however, his passion for electronics and technology didn’t stop him from achieving his dream.
Ahmad is a 20 year’s old young man who lives with his father, mother, and 14-year-old sister. Even though Ahmad’s family struggled with his disability especially within a society that categorizes disability as a social stigma. However, the support and encouragement they showed to Ahmad made him firmer and more resilient. “It wasn’t easy to raise a child with a disability as they face multiple forms of exclusion but the only aspect me and his mother were worried about is how the society would accept him and how his future would be”, said Naser Ahmad’s father.
Ahmad’s father owns an automotive maintenance shop which is the main and only income to the family, as it only generates 240$ monthly. Ahmad used to go with his father regularly to the shop after school and in weekends, and this is the reason behind his passion for electronics and fixing cars. Ahmad said, “I remember how I used to hand equipment to my father, observe him while he works, fixing car parts, talking to customers”, he added: “The skills I have learned and practised today was because of my father and his support, even though I have a disability my father was the reason what I am right now”. Ahmad now on a daily basis works jointly with his father in the shop, he doesn’t only help his father, but he manages to fix cars by himself without the help of his father.
Ahmad passion didn’t stop there as he embraced the importance of empowerment and being able to have a voice and take control of his own life and future, and it’s not about person with a disability but to all people, as they need to be involved in the decisions that affect their lives. Ahmad saw the announcement of “Heart of Amman” Community Initiatives and Entrepreneurship Support Project and he didn’t hesitate a minute to apply in order to develop and upgrade the family-owned automotive shop. Ahmad said: “I was super thrilled when I started applying, I did have some doubts on how I will be able to do all that, but I knew I would get it because I wanted it badly”. Ahmad was one of the hundreds of start-ups who applied to the initiative, the competition was tight, but Ahmad was one of the Twenty-nine start-ups who were chosen and went through its Bootcamp.
The UNDP’s entrepreneurship programme supports the improvement of the socio-economic conditions in Downtown Amman through applying effective and innovation-driven solutions that add value to the local community, revive growth and create jobs. It supports the setting up and scaling of innovative business ideas through improving their business and revenue models as well as strategies growth. This support is not only limited to the provision of investment funds, but start-ups are also receiving networking opportunities with eco-system change-makers.
Through the start-ups Bootcamp Ahmad received a practical step by step business mentorship training where he and other start-ups participants were introduced to the main steps of building business, the training involved entrepreneurial skills principles that aimed at identifying a business idea that is feasible and market oriented. During the training, the beneficiaries were capacitated on filling out the business canvas. The beneficiaries were also required to prepare a video containing their pitch on the business proposal as a response to C-19 social distancing; “during the training trainees guided me step by step through developing and building my start-up, it was a crucial phase for me to learn and grasp as much knowledge as possible” Ahmad said. Ahmad transformed personally, and professionally, he is empowered, more confident to explore, learn, and develop. Ahmad added, “I know that my disability is a challenge I face, but this opportunity has made me different and it is one of the challenges that I have overcome over the past years.” Ahmad wishes someday that he would go back to university to continue his education majoring electronics and technology to be more specialised, in order to expand their owned family shop.
“Heart of Amman” project as the name entitles is in the heart of Jordanian community and this brings a valuable opportunity to encourage vulnerable women and youths to start small businesses, as well as to boost the economy and create a transformative opportunity for young men and women.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a once in a generation opportunity to create an equal and inclusive society where people with disabilities have the same access to opportunities as those without. If people with disabilities can raise their voice and demand their rights – the impact could be truly tangible.