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A young woman’s inner journey is empowering women in Hashmeyeh — Zarqa governorate in more than one way. 36 year-old Ahlam Al-Zyoud loves a challenge; she has been actively involved in her community ever since she was in school. From volunteering with charity associations to helping the poor and advocating for justice in her neighborhood, the inner strength and resilience of Ahlam has landed her a big position as a representative of al-Hashmiyeh that comes with huge responsibilities.

The First Step

When Ahlam heard about UNDP’s project “Emergency Employment (3x6 approach)” she didn’t hesitate to join, she felt that this is an opportunity that can’t be missed. “Many of the ladies who joined looked down on the idea of owning and managing your own shop, our community is conservative but I disagreed with them from the get go” says Ahlam who is now approached often by young women asking her about the project and how to participate in it in the future so that they become like her, a successful business woman who makes money for herself.

“I have changed a lot thanks to the soft skills sessions which taught me a lot about myself and my potential to succeed in business and politics”

A Business Woman

After she has engaged in several community initiatives, as part of UNDP’s project, such as installing grey-water systems at schools, upcycling old clothes into blankets for the poor and needy and creating an environment-friendly park for kids in Hashmiyeh; Ahlam set out on a different kind of journey that was fueled by the positive energy of giving back to her community, a journey to materialize all that she learned about business establishment and self-employment during the soft-skills workshops she enthusiastically attended.

“The most valuable knowledge I gained is how to build a sustainable business, and how to communicate and deliver messages to people” says Ahlam who decided to open the first women clothing shop in Hashmiyeh because “brides to-be deserve to get what they want from a shop nearby, before that they used to go to Zarqa’s central area to buy anything which meant spending money on transportation and paying higher prices” adds Ahlam who is currently satisfying the area’s needs of bridal wear, casual wear and accessories.

“The most valuable knowledge I gained is how to build a sustainable business, and how to communicate and deliver messages to people”

Ahlam who was fully dependent financially on her family for the past 35 years, is now proud to be making money and contributing to the household’s expenses while saving to expand her business in the future, something that she learned from the saving-oriented approach of the project as participants receive only half of their monthly incentives while UNDP saves the other half to give them back later as a seed capital.

A Representative of the People

Talking about how she nominated herself for the decentralized municipal elections that took place in Jordan last month (August 2017); Ahlam says that she wouldn’t have thought about it if it wasn’t for her participation in UNDP’s Emergency Employment programme. “My shop helped me pay for the expenses of my modest campaign in Hashmiyeh, but most importantly the newly found self-confidence is what pushed me to try”.

And she succeeded, winning the highest number of votes for a woman candidate.

Among the hot areas of improvement Ahlam promises to work on are employment, environment, education and infrastructure. As part of her candidacy programme, she has already started by planting trees at the entrance of Hashmiyeh for a greener Hashmiyeh by 2020. She has also worked on adding a second working shift for street cleaners to reduce solid waste pollution, a serious problem in the area.

“People call me or come to my shop to talk about their concerns as citizens and they mainly ask me for jobs” says Ahlam, whose number one priority is fighting unemployment in Hashmiyeh especially among young women.

Ahlam is doing her best to create more jobs for people of Hashmiyeh. She is currently pushing for a plan to launch two clothing factories where 600 people will be employed. She is also proposing that all governmental directorates and offices are placed in a compound so that more people will have jobs. On the other hand, time and effort is saved for citizens who often spend an entire day going back and forth between governmental directorates which are located far from each other. Traffic will be also reduced.

Endless Dreams

“In 4 years from now, I want to nominate myself for parliamentary elections” says Ahlam excitedly, “my dream is to be able to empower all Jordanian women by telling them that they can do anything” she adds.

The programme which was implemented in Zarqa governorate by UNDP with the support of the government of Japan, the World Food Programme and in collaboration with the National Microfinance bank has helped 192 Jordanians become business owners, 124 of them are women. 390 participants have benefited from the programme so far.

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