Born into a conservative family in northeast Amman, Jordan, Israa, age 23, was expected to stay at home after completing secondary school until she got married. But her family’s wishes, especially those of her father, conflicted with Israa’s dream of developing her skills and pursuing a career. “My father didn’t believe in education for girls and was opposed to women working,” says the oldest of six siblings.
Israa’s journey of changing her father’s mind started when she heard about the bookkeeping training offered through Equip Youth, a program of the International Youth Foundation (IYF) carried out with support from the Caterpillar Foundation.
After appealing to her father over the course of two months, Israa finally convinced him that the nearby location of the training would be both convenient and safe. Says Israa, “I explained to him that the selection process was tough. Fifty applicants were competing for twenty spots. I would have to take placement tests in addition to personal interviews and my chances of getting accepted were low. When I finally was accepted, he didn’t have the heart to say no.”
The six-month training offered through Al Quds College consisted of three parts: life skills instruction based on IYF’s Passport to Success® curriculum, technical training, and an internship. Among the technical skills Israa gained were essential computer skills, basic finance, customer service, employee communications, data entry, and business English.
“The training was challenging,” says Israa. “The standards were high. I studied every day and benefited a lot from it.”
But that was just the beginning. Through a job fair organized through the program, Israa, along with 15 other youth, was selected by representatives from the global furniture brand IKEA to interview at the company’s offices. After three rounds of interviews, Israa received an offer for a part-time job.
Success was not guaranteed, however, until she could convince her father to allow her to work in a mixed gender environment with occasional late shifts. She invited him to visit the company and meet her supervisors. “I believe I changed my father,” says Israa who succeeded in winning his support. “Even when I face difficulties at work, I think of how hard I worked to get here. I know many unemployed university graduates. I, on the other hand, work for an international company.”
Says IKEA Showroom Manager, “Israa is a hard worker, who has proven she’s fit for the job. We’ve hired five new employees, four of whom are IYF trainees.” Not only has Israa been successful in fulfilling her dreams, she’s also become an example for other family members and the girls in her community. “Now my parents speak about me with pride. My father’s perspective on women and employment has changed too. When relatives ask if he approves of my job, he answers, ‘why not, there is no shame in working.’”
In addition to becoming financially independent, Israa feels it’s her duty to help her father, a government employee, to support the family. “I’m proud of being financially independent,” she says. “When I finished the Tawjihi, I was too embarrassed to ask my father for money. But now, I can fully support myself and help with my family’s expenses.”
Israa has big dreams for the future. She plans to stay with IKEA and hopes to develop her skills to qualify for promotions. “In five years, I hope to become a shop owner,” she adds. “I want to buy a car, an apartment, and fully establish myself financially.”
The Young Entrepreneurs program equips youth in Delhi and Mumbai with skills, guidance and support, and access to finance to allow them to successfully start or expand their own small businesses. Since the April progress report we have done another round of trainings in both Delhi and Mumbai, and the total number of youth reached has increased to 1020.
Manish is one of these young entrepreneurs.
Twenty-four-year old print shop owner Manish was facing many challenges in sustaining his banner making business in Hauzkhas, Delhi. New clients were hard to find and current print orders were dwindling. On top of this, Manish was having difficulty managing his staff, which was forcing him to do much more work to keep the business running. He needed to get his business back on track, but didn’t know where to turn.
Then, last year, he heard about the Young Entrepreneurs program and quickly applied. The training program, he discovered, was a perfect fit for him. Manish was able to gain the skills and knowledge he needed to successfully operate a business, and he soaked up every piece of advice he could. He was particularly interested in the lessons on resource management, marketing, and working with and managing others.
Manish also received further support from the program, including one-on-one mentoring and a loan of Rs. 15,000 from the program’s micro-loan fund. His mentor reinforced what Manish learned in the classroom and helped him to prepare a business plan. The loan allowed Manish to purchase new equipment to make his business more competitive.
Young Entrepreneurs has changed Manish’s outlook on the future. With new equipment and marketing ideas, this emerging entrepreneur has been able to increase orders and secure new clients, especially school and event management firms. He is now confident and excited about his business. After conducting market research, he is looking to change business locations to be more competitive. He is now better able to manage his staff and can re-focus his attention on building and growing his business.
Manish has become an inspiration for other youth in his neighbourhood, and he wants to give back to Young Entrepreneurs to help them. He has become a peer mentor for the program and enjoys working with other young people to help them start and grow their own businesses.
From almost shutting down to now growing and expanding, Manish’s business has completely turned around and gotten back on track. So has his vision for the future.
International Youth Foundation (IYF)
IYF invests in the extraordinary potential of young people. Founded in 1990, IYF builds and maintains a worldwide community of businesses, governments, and civil-society organizations committed to empowering youth to be healthy, productive, and engaged citizens. IYF programs are catalysts of change that help young people obtain a quality education, gain employability skills, make healthy choices, and improve their communities. IYF currently works with a multitude of donors in over 70 countries. The following describes highlights from one of our programs.
Young Social Innovators in Africa Take Center Stage
Kampala, Uganda—An emerging generation of young change-makers in Africa is tackling urgent challenges—poverty, food insecurity, unemployment, lack of access to health care—with creativity, drive, and entrepreneurial spirit.
Take Mene, who developed a low-cost poultry feed that increases the productivity of smallholder farmers while making protein-rich food more affordable in rural Nigeria, and Regina, who empowers women in Zambia with the skills and confidence to pursue IT careers and ‘pay forward’ what they have learned to their peers.
These two young social entrepreneurs are among 25 recently selected as Fellows of Social Entrepreneurs Transforming Africa (SET Africa). The SET Fellows were selected from 15 Anglophone African countries and will receive advanced leadership training, networking support, coaching, and financing through their participation in the program. The program is a regional collaboration between the International Youth Foundation (IYF), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and The MasterCard Foundation and is managed by the Makerere University Business School (MUBS) in Uganda.
“Africa is a continent full of young people with the vivacity and creativity to tackle their communities’ most troubling challenges,” said IYF President and CEO Bill Reese. “Thanks to the work of our local partner MUBS, we are privileged to support these young founders and CEOs in achieving even more through their social ventures.”
SET Africa is a member of IYF’s YouthActionNet® network, is one of 18 national and regional youth leadership development initiatives across the globe. The 25 inaugural SET Fellows join a community of over 900 young social entrepreneurs in 85 countries.