Apr 11, 2016

Empowering women in Armenia to achieve their dreams

In partnership with the Gegharkunik Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) and four community-based organizations (CBOs), NEF has made great strides in improving the protection, gender equality, agency, and economic independence for women survivors of gender-based violence (GBV) in Armenia. NEF’s work to empower survivors of GBV is becoming increasingly evident in the lives of our beneficiaries.

In a recent interview, Mary—a wife and mother who lives in Syunik Province—spoke to us about her own personal transformation as a result of participating in NEF’s project. For many years Mary was subjected to psychological and economic abuse, lacking economic and decision-making power in the household. She regretted not working and earning money after she married.

“It was my dream to be a hairdresser and earn money for myself,” she recalled. “My husband and his mother always thought it would be best if I focused my efforts on household chores alone. I eventually began to believe them, but now I see that if a woman stays at home all day, her relationships, professional networks, and worldviews will become limited even if she has skills or knowledge to offer. I am glad I chose to become involved in this programme, and develop my own business plan. Soon I will be able to get equipment and materials through the support of the project, which will enable me to pursue what I love while contributing to my family’s budget.”

NEF’s program, currently funded by the European Union, in Armenia equips survivors like Mary with the knowledge, skills, and support structures needed to start their own business or find sustained employment. Thus far, 59 women survivors across Yerevan and the Lori and Syunik regions have signed up to participate in the business development stream. Forty-eight have developed business plans and will receive support to start their small businesses in the near future. Fifty-seven women are enrolled in the employment development stream and will learn valuable skills needed to meet employer qualifications. Most of the women also receive vocational training in preparation for their new profession.

“My decision to participate has also gradually begun to change my family's view of me,” Mary explained. “They are starting to believe in my abilities and capacity to make decisions—to be more than just a housewife. This is a significant achievement for me. I don’t remember the last time I felt I could initiate something and succeed.’’

Thank you for continuing to support our work in Armenia—helping to make stories like Mary’s the rule and not the exception!

 

The names have been changed in this publication to protect the privacy and security of the individuals involved.

Mar 16, 2016

Syrian Refugees' Urban Gardens Thrive

Bourj Hammoud, a densely populated and diverse city on the outskirts of Beirut, Lebanon, is home to over 94,000 people from several ethnicities, nationalities, and religions. Living conditions in this suburb are very crowded and substandard. Commonly known through the years as the “hub for refugees”, Bourj Hammoud is now home to over 18,000 Syrians who have fled to Lebanon for a better life.

Most refugees have little to no source of sustainable income as their savings have been depleted—pushing them into risky coping strategies like child labor and exploitative, illegal, or demeaning work. With an aim to improve access to food and increase the economic resilience of at least 150 poor Syrian and Lebanese families over the coming months, NEF is focused on cost-effective solutions to achieve self-reliance through urban agriculture, small business development, financial literacy, and group savings.

NEF is working with the American University of Beirut (AUB) and the YMCA-Lebanon to help vulnerable families grow fresh fruits and vegetables at home by providing training and start-up materials for container gardening, vertical gardening, and/or rooftop gardening.

The very first woman to welcome the idea of urban agriculture into her home is Araxi. Araxi is a Syrian refugee who escaped the war three years ago. Like most Syrian refugees in Lebanon, she is struggling with insufficient financial resources as she and her husband try to put their two children through school, pay rent, and put food on the table.

After installation in early October, Araxi is already benefitting from the vertical garden which will yield enough onions, garlic, thyme, marjoram, and mint to use in her kitchen—reducing expenses she would otherwise incur purchasing these vegetables elsewhere.

“The kit was just recently installed, but the onion leaves are shooting, and my aunt and I already ate from them. On another note, the week I harvested the green onion leaves, I did not go to the supermarket to purchase onions or green onion leaves. In the long run, this will make a lot of difference.”

With diminishing humanitarian aid, your support is appreciated more than ever. Thank you for your continued support of the Near East Foundation, and for helping women like Araxi and her family find safe and sustainable solutions to achieve food and financial security!

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Dec 18, 2015

Workshops launch to help Syrian refugees

Today, Lebanon hosts more than 1.1 million Syrian refugees and Jordan hosts over 600,000. As the crisis enters its fifth year, refugees have depleted their savings and humanitarian aid is declining—leaving refugees to survive on just 50 cents today, and vulnerable families to resort to harmful coping mechanisms such as begging and child labor.

While immediate humanitarian aid is important, NEF is focused on cost-effective actions that have long-term sustainable impacts by enabling refugees to meet their own needs with dignity, and becoming productive members of their host communities. 

This month, the Near East Foundation held its first workshops in Lebanon as a part of its project to help refugees and vulnerable members of their host communities in Lebanon and Jordan build economic resilience and food security.  

On December 9th, NEF led an urban agriculture workshop at the YMCA in Beirut, Lebanon. Thirteen Syrian and Lebanese women from Bourj Hammoud attended, and were trained by American University of Beirut experts on urban agriculture topics, such as: vertical and horizontal planting, composting techniques, and how to use a sun-dryer.

As the workshop came to an end, the participants were enthusiastic to apply the newly learned information in their own homes. Many mentioned that they would like to attend similar workshops to further refine their skills. 

That same week, NEF led a second series of workshops on enterprise development. The aim of the four-day workshop was to help Syrian and Lebanese women study the aptness of their business ideas to ultimately translate them into viable business plans. The workshops also taught participants how to write clear, concise and effective marketing strategies, and the appropriate techniques needed to formulate a sound organizational and financial plan. 

One participant, Ada, who is a Syrian refugee and mother of two remarked “I have enough self-confidence to become an entrepreneur…but I need to refine my skills”.

A committee, comprised of representatives from NEF, YMCA-Lebanon, the American University of Beirut, and other business professionals, will evaluate the proposed business plans and give feedback and guidance where necessary so that these plans may one day transform into operating businesses. 

With a focus on women and adolescent girls, NEF’s overall aim over the next two years is to help at least 5,000 Syrian, Lebanese, and Jordanian families restore their livelihoods and achieve some degree of economic stability.

As always, thank you for your support of NEF and for supporting our project to “Help Syrian Refugees Help Themselves”!

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