Prior to joining NEF UK's project, Anna*—a survivor of gender-based violence—worked as a talented baker at a local establishment for many years. Each day, she did her best to earn money for her boss, ensuring only the best, handmade products made it onto the bakery’s shelves. Though she enjoyed her work, the low salary and long hours she worked at the bakery made her question whether she would do better to start her own business. Anna toyed with the idea for more than three years, but without start-up capital the likelihood that she could try and succeed at launching her own business seemed dim.
Anna was referred to the AGERS project in June 2015, and was selected to participate in enterprise-track trainings one month later. Over the course of the two-week class, she gradually came to realize that she could achieve her dream of opening a bistro with the support of Near East Foundation UK (NEF UK) and Gegharkunik Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI). Through the project, Anna learned that her business model was high risk, and to be successful she would need to anticipate common challenges faced by restaurants and plan ahead to avoid them or minimize their impact. The project team helped Anna to register her business, conduct risk assessments, negotiate a rental space, and understand tax law. She used the small grant she was awarded through the project to stock her restaurant with tools and ingredients.
To limit costs, Anna recruited her son Vardan* to contribute to the management of the bistro. Vardan had always struggled with health issues, but continued to work odd labor-intensive jobs to care for the family out of necessity. For Vardan, the bistro presented a welcome alternative to his then-physically-demanding line of work. Working together, Anna could focus on production while Vardan focused on advertising, sourcing fresh produce, and managing delivery logistics.
Two months after receiving her grant, Anna earned enough of a profit to cover the restaurant’s fixed and variable costs. With business on the rise, her self-confidence continues to increase by leaps and bounds.
“My business is growing slowly” Anna says, “but it is my own business. I alone am responsible for both profits and losses. I am happy to have my son’s support. Thanks to the project, I gained the know-how, equipment, and materials to overcome my fear of failure and become an entrepreneur.”
Through the project, 131 women have developed business plans and 83 women have developed career and learning plans after attending project trainings.
* Beneficiary’s name has been changed to protect their identity.
The Advancing Gender Equality and the Rights of the Survivors of Gender-Based Violence in Armenia (AGERS) project, funded by the European Union and implemented by the Near East Foundation UK (NEF UK) and Gegharkunik Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI), brings positive change to the families of gender-based violence survivors.
Sticky sweet fingers and laughter fill the kitchens of Muna and Hanadi, two neighbors and Syrian refugees who live in Zarqa, Jordan.
Muna and Hanadi first met when Hanadi moved into the same building as Muna and her family. The two women became more than just good friends—through an NEF networking event Muna and Hanadi soon became business partners.
Both women were housewives before they were forced to leave their hometown of Aleppo in Syria. Hanadi, a mother of three sons and a daughter, fled the violence in 2012 after her house was bombed in a series of airstrikes. Muna, a mother of two sons, fled Syria with her family when the violence destroyed her village.
Like many refugees who were forced to leave Syria, Muna, Hanadi, and their families were financially unstable after resettling in Jordan. They didn’t know anyone who could lend them a helping hand and their husbands, who had served as the main breadwinners, were unable to work as a result of strict labor laws in Jordan.
Many refugee and poor Jordanian families find themselves without good options, and they are forced to resort to harmful coping strategies just to get by. This may include child labor, begging, early marriage, engaging in exploitative work, or taking on extensive debt.
NEF's work in Jordan seeks to offer refugees and vulnerable Jordanians opportunities through business trianings, financial literacy, and start-up grants—options that support participants to attain self-sufficiency and reject strategies that may harm them in the long-run.
Impressed with Hanadi's cooking skills, Muna asked Hanadi to go into business with her after attending an NEF-business training session together.
Through trainings in business planning and financial literacy and a project grant, Muna and Hanadi started a home-based catering business featuring Syrian pastries.Their kuba, a fried croquette, is a particular favorite among their client-base—which grew after Muna sent her son to school with a tray of kuba. His teacher liked it so much she asked Muna to make it for her. From then on, the reputation of their great service and delicious dishes began to spread by word of mouth.
NEF provided Muna and Hanadi with the tools and skills they needed to generate a stable income to provide for their families. Through their business, they make a profit of about 100 JOD per month ($140), which allows them to purchase necessary household items. They plan to expand their business in the future by buying a refrigerator to help produce more food and provide ready-made meals for clients on-the-go.
“Participating in the project and starting our own business made us feel part of the community because we got to connect with the people here.”
Muna continued, “I feel more confident than ever because our clients trust us.”
Thank you for your continued to support to make stories like Muna's and Hanadi's possible!
In Armenia, 69 percent of women report being physically assaulted by an intimate partner—often in front of their children—at least once in their lives. With conservative gendered norms embedded in the culture at home and in the community, women’s role in the economy is severely restricted—posing barriers to social and economic development in Armenia. To address this systemic issue, women’s fundamental human rights need to be better protected and advocated for.
The Near East Foundation (NEF) implemented an initiative, in partnership with the Gegharkunik Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) and funded by the European Union, to help 200 survivors of gender-based violence (GBV) enhance their employability and small business skills. The Advancing Gender Equality and the Rights of Survivors of Gender-Based Violence (AGERS) project provides vocational training and business and financial support so that these women can become economically independent and meet their needs with dignity.
This initiative, only half way through its cycle, has already seen tremendous success as 90 percent of GBV survivors who have participated in the program have reported improved self-reliance and economic independence.
Nune*, a young woman who was emotionally and physically abused by her family for many years, tolerated the violence as a means to protect her family as she was financially dependent on her husband. Searching for a safe way out, she sought help from a local community organization—the Women’s Resource Center (WRC) in Yerevan.
In addition to directly helping women through this program, NEF is also working with local community organizations, like the WRC, who already work with GBV survivors. NEF helps these organizations improve their capacity to deliver effective economic development programs that are supportive of gender equality, protective against GBV, and to help them better engage the public, and civil society as a whole in joint action, dialogue, and training around normal, safe workplaces, and protection strategies.
Nune sat down with WRC to discuss her situation and aspirations, which included finding a way to utilize her sewing skills, and they recommended her to enroll in NEF’s AGERS’s business development stream. The trainings helped her to build self-confidence and learn how to develop a profitable business plan for a tailoring business. Impressed by her ambition and comprehensive plan, the project team awarded Nune a grant so that she could purchase a sewing machine and other materials she needed to start and run her business.
Now separated from her husband, Nune lives with her parents. There, she makes women’s clothes and sells them from the house and in different stores in Yerevan. With the success her business has seen, Nune now makes enough of a profit to take care of herself and her family. To continue to grow her business, Nune is negotiating contracts with other stores in Yerevan and other nearby cities in Armenia.
Another woman, Hasmik*, had a small child so took a big risk leaving her husband after experiencing an abusive relationship. Without a means to support her child herself, Hasmik moved in with her parents and immediately contacted the WRC for help, who also referred her to NEF’s program.
Through attending NEF’s trainings, Hasmik became more confident in herself, her abilities, and her potential to succeed independently. With the support of an employability trainer Hasmik developed a CV, a career development plan, and learned how to interview for jobs. The project also helped her to do job screening and apply to a number of jobs relevant to her skill-set and background. Her resume was sent to a number of employers in Yerevan and the other regions. Soon, Hasmik was offered a job in a food factory as a quality manager where she is able to now make enough for her to rent a home for her and her child and provide for her family without depending on anyone else.
The AGERS program has so far helped 98 women develop comprehensive business plans and 91 women develop career plans and CVs. Thirty-three women have received certificates for successful completion of accredited vocational training curricula, and 80 women have received small grants to cover start-up and vocational training expenses.
*The names of the women in this report have been changed to protect their safety.