"I only wanted to be able to look people I was speaking to in the eye, rather than looking up at them". Mohammmad, 23 years old.
It was on graduation day that we met twenty three year old Mohammad for the first time.Confident, enthusiastic and energized, he pitched his project in front of his classmates, his trainers and a panel of judges and had moved on to the incubation phase of our programme.When we sat with him though, it was very clear that life hadn't been easy on him. Mohammad was just twelve years old during the 2006 war in Lebanon, when a landmine went off near him, causing the loss of both of his legs as well as and many other injuries and third degree burns.After months of rehabilitation and treatment, his burns healed up but he found himself in a wheelchair, a fact he could not comprehend.To make matters worse, he was ridiculed, bullied and rejected because of his injuries and his inability to walk. And so started Mohammad's battle with depression, substance abuse and getting up to all sorts of trouble.When asked about the tipping point which made him want to turn his life around, Mohammad immediately thinks of his family, their support and unconditional love.Years later, Mohammad started working out, doing upper body weight training, taking self-defense classes and hand cycling. To take some financial pressure off his family, as well as feel productive, he started taking odd jobs in the Rashidiya refugee camp where he lives.For eight years, he worked as an orange picker scaling up trees using his hands only. He also used his free time to collect cans and plastic waste from the camp, resell them and save the money.Eventually, Mohammad got lucky, a non-profit sponsored a trip to Germany for him, and the cost of prosthetics so that he may walk again.Today, Mohammad carries hints of pain around with him but is mostly happy to be able to move around, and excited to launch the project he applied for with The Nawaya Network innovation and entrepreneurship programme.Mohammad and six other youth, who have gone through difficult trials will be sharing their stories at the Nawaya Talks, a heartwarming event which focused on shedding light on youth in Lebanon, their challenges, dreams and successes. Take action today, you too can help youth like Mohammad thrive by donating to our cause.
“She taught me what's important, and what isn't. And I've never forgotten. And that's what mothers do, I say.” - Steven Herrick, A Place Like This
At just 24 years old, Nour is a proud mother to two young girls, has completed her university degree, and has recently launched two small enterprises!
Her story is one of courage and strength of spirit.
Nour comes from and lives in a conservative and patriarchal community in suburban Beirut, she married at a very young age and is now a mother of two daughters, 4 and 7 years old.
In a community where a woman's role is limited to being a good wife, caring for the children and doing household chores, Nour has had to fight hard to get an education. She started studying law at university, a major she soon realized she'd never get a chance to practice because she’s veiled.
She switched to graphic design as an alternative, which she has now completed successfully, and had her first daughter soon afterwards then her second daughter.
Feeling helpless and confined within her home, the invisible boundaries of society and a marriage in which she was shouldering the responsibility of raising two young girls by herself weighing her down, Nour turned to making sweets at home and tried to sell them in order to pay for her daughters’ schooling fees.
All the while, her husband dashing in and out of the house at will, barely providing the food essentials for her and the children, and dictating her every move.
Looking for a way forward, for herself but mostly her daughters, Nour joined the Generation of Innovation Leaders, GIL, program, implemented by Nawaya. She had a clear vision to improve her at-home business or create a similar one that would earn her enough money to sustain her two daughters. But mostly, she wanted to be a role model, a source of inspiration for them and to show them how to be strong and independent so that they might have more fulfilled lives.
“I have gained back my confidence, acquired a positive mindset and feel more empowered than ever. I would recommend this training to anyone, at any stage of their lives, because of the skills it teaches, but mostly because of the mindset it has instilled in me," says Nour.
Despite her husband’s protests, Nour has managed to launch not one, but two small enterprises, both of which reflect her talent and passion for making sweets but each with a twist. She now caters to birthday parties, makes chocolates for weddings and other occasions and carries a healthy, organic line of chocolates.
While Nour’s journey has been tough, she has managed to achieve many milestones towards her goals. There are however, many mothers who continue to struggle daily. Should you wish to support them, please consider making a donation to our program here.
GIL is a program powered by UNICEF Lebanon, funded by the Kingdom of the Netherlands and KFW.
There are nearly 1.1 million registered Syrian refugees in Lebanon, a shy estimate to what in reality may be over 2 million.
The percentage of adolescents between the ages of twelve and seventeen years old currently stands at 12.6% while a staggering 93% of youth between the ages of fiftenn and twenty four are out of school. A study conducted in 2014 showed that around 35% of surveyed youth had dropped out of school due to displacement and lack of money.
Lebanese youth are not better off, an estimated 23 thousand youth enter the job market yearly with only 3,400 vacancies available. Slow economic growth is a major factor but the biggest reason may be corruption and nepotism.
This presents a very dire situation, as an entire generation of Lebanese and refugee youth will be subjected to live in an entrenched state of poverty and disempowerment, without access to quality education and employment. The likelihood of young men engaging in illicit activities may only increase due to a sense of desperation, while girls will continue to be married off early, becoming mothers at a young age, and thus perpetuating the cycle of poverty.
After a two-year trial period, The Nawaya Network's Social Entrepeneurship programme will continue to provide out-of-school, at-risk Lebanese and refugee youth with opportunities to learn important innovation and entrepreneurial skills that could potentially lead them to generate an income by starting their own small enterprises.
This opportunity will empower both girls and boys to feel effective in the labor market by utilizing their skills for potential income generation while feeling empowered through gaining meaningful skills in the process.
The program will now be folded within UNICEF Lebanon's innovation labs, named GIL, an acronym for "Generation of Innovation Leaders".
Through this program, we aim to help youth gain important skills to create small or social enterprise, improve their employability, gain an alternate source of income, learn important soft and life skills and become active leaders and change-makers in their communities.
We would like to thank you, our donors for believing in our cause and helping us shape the future of over 2,400 youth in 2017.
Here are some of our youth projects incubated through the Social Entrepeneurship program this past year:
Ghida from Tripoli and Mahmoud from Tyr have created a real-time online database of books available at bookshops in Lebanon.
Their project proposes get a stock-keeping solution to old-fashioned bookshops, and exposure to a large pool of customers. Through the platform, readers would be able to search online for books, shop at their preferred locations, etc... Similar solutions for book finding are not yet available on the market.
Ghida and Mahmoud have gone through an intensive training round with Elevate Mena following our program in order to fine tune their business idea and come out with a workable prototype.
Ideal Motor, a green solution to electricity shortages in Lebanon.
It's been nearly a quarter-century since the civil war in Lebanon ended, yet the country is still failing to secure a constant power supply to citizens.
The electricity crisis in Lebanon summarizes the suffering of an entire country with households and businesses securing additional power sources, often, from private power generator owners to cover the outages.
Nineteen year old Hassan and Mohamad from Nabatiyeh, who are both passionate about electrical engineering, realized that these diesel or gas powered generators are not only a harmful source of power but also an expensive one.
They worked together through the Social Entrepeneurship program to present a self-starting, rechargeable generator prototype which generates a voltage of 3,5 and would provide power for two days.
For now, Ideal Motor can only power small items but Hassan and Mohamad want to improve on their prototype, to provide a bigger power supply to entire households and later neighborhoods. They hope to be able to create bigger versions to replace the fuel consuming ones currently in use throughout the country.
Ariman, a driven twenty one year old, fled the war in Syria four years ago, looking for safety. She settled in Choueifat, where she lives today.
Ariman is passionate about beauty and the benefits of plants and fruits on the skin. She’s been mixing fruits, essential oils and other natural products to tailor make skin care and beauty treatments for years.
Following her participation in the Social Entrepreneurship program, she worked on making her treatments available at Suzanne’s Beauty Center in Choueifat.
She hopes to one day, develop her own line of beauty products and create broader sales channels for them. To reflect her Kurdish roots, Ariman has named her project Gînolojîyê. The word derives from “Gin” in Kurdish, which means “woman” while the project name translates into: “The World of Women”.
Twenty three year old Abdullah, from Lebanon is a passionate graphic designer and visual artist.
He's taught himself to create over six styles calligraphy. When joined the Social Entrepeneurship prorgam, Abdullah built on his passion and came up with the to carve out his art on plexi, wood and even car wheels, while also incorporating within the designs recyclable material for decorative purposes.
The charismatic young man is now using his art to create little gifts for all occasions. He named his project Zakhrafiyat.
Abdullah is hoping to expand his business by selling his creations outside his community in the Shouf.
The Nawaya Network Social Entrepeneurship program was made possible through support from UNICEF Lebanon, The Kingdom of the Netherlands and the German Cooperation.