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Building Bridges to a Bright Future: How micro-enterprise empowers rural Yemeni women

A muslim woman with a black outfit working on a grinding machine

Shadia grinds henna. Photo: Bassam Saleh/CARE.

Shadia grinds henna. Photo: Bassam Saleh/CARE.

Rural women in Yemen are more vulnerable to poverty, marginalization, and discrimination. They have limited access to education, health care, and job opportunities. However, despite these challenges, Yemeni women have shown incredible resilience. They have been at the forefront of supporting their families and rebuilding their communities.

“Empowering rural Yemeni women is essential to the country’s long-term recovery. Vocational training and financial grants can help women develop the skills they need to participate in income-generating activities and support their families amid the current economic crisis that ravaged the country,” says Reham Ahmed, CARE’s Early Recovery Field Officer in the Aden sub-office.

CARE delivers a Food Assistance for Training (FFT) project to improve food security and sustainable livelihoods of conflict-affected families in Lahj and Al-Dhale’e Governorates. Combining cash assistance with training and capacity-building activities, the FFT enables 2,150 project participants to meet their immediate food needs with the cash they receive in exchange for attending vocational training. In addition, they are encouraged to meet their long-term needs by equipping them with the necessary skills to improve their livelihoods. After the training, 2,134 participants received financial grants to start their small businesses.

In this article, we share the inspiring stories of four remarkable women microentrepreneurs who, through their unwavering determination, transformative training, and the gift of grants, built bridges to a bright future with their micro-enterprises.

Shadia’s business goes beyond the borders

“After my divorce, I found myself alone with one child,” says Shadia. “I had to step up and provide for myself and my child. The life skills training helped me restore my confidence and determination to start preparing and selling henna.”

“When I received the financial grant, I immediately bought a mill and four bags of henna and embarked on a journey full of successes,” she adds. “I started selling henna in the village’s market first, then I worked with several women in neighboring villages to market and distribute my products in their areas. Now, I use social media to market my products widely. I receive many orders from Yemeni immigrants in Gulf countries and America.”

As Shadia’s profits increased, she built a small storage room for henna products and raw materials in her house and a shed for the grinding machine in her yard. She also hired two women to work with her in preparing henna.

“I’m so proud of my competitive high-quality products and the success of my business,” she adds.

Shadia packs henna to sell in the market. Photo: Bassam Saleh/CARE

Sumaya provides a pioneering service in her region

Sumaya, 28, owner of the first wedding planning business in her area. Photo: Bassam Saleh/CARE

Sumaya Abdalnasser is a 28-year-old mother of one daughter. She joined the FFT project in her area and received training and financial support to start her wedding planning business. Through her business, Sumaya offers supplies and decorations for wedding parties, including lighting, sound systems, and utilities.

“I live in a semi-rural region, and there are no wedding planners here,” says Sumaya. “I took advantage of this point and chose to provide a pioneer service for brides in the area. I’ve coordinated weddings and events for people in our village and nearby villages. I also offer decorations, lighting, sound systems, and photography equipment for rent to ensure my business generates income, even if I don’t have any planning or coordinating requests.”

Sumaya’s business became a family business, where her sister provides photography services, and her husband takes care of transporting and delivery duties. “My business helped me improve my life for the better. I’m proud that I also unlocked new opportunities for my family,” she adds.

Sumaya shows a customer the items she can rent for her wedding party. Photo: Bassam Saleh/CARE

Sewing for a steady income

Samah,45, and two of her children in front of her sewing machine. Photo: Bassam Saleh/CARE

Samah Anis, a 45-year-old mother of five children, is another project participant who received training and a grant of US$630 to start a sewing business.

“I’ve been interested in sewing since childhood, but I didn’t have a sewing machine,” she says. “When I heard about the project, I decided to apply. I was accepted in the program and received sewing, business management, and other training.”

After buying sewing machines and supplies, Samah embarked on her entrepreneurial journey, sewing clothes for women and children, and selling them in the local markets. “Through my sewing business, I managed to generate a stable income for my family,” she proudly says. “I also plan to teach my elder daughter how to sew so she possesses a valuable skill set when she grows up.”

From passion to profession

Souad Maher, 32, in her shop. Photo: Bassam Saleh/CARE

Like Samah, Souad Maher, a 32-year-old divorced mother of two children, received a US$630 grant to help her open a photography studio. “I graduated from the journalism and media department at university and have always been interested in photography,” she says. “The FFT project helped me turn my passion into a profitable business and open a photography studio. I shoot pictures for weddings, events, and personal portraits. I also receive photography requests from newspapers, magazines, and websites.”

Souad’s studio became famous rapidly, and her clients increased, so she started to sell stationery to increase her revenue and hired a female employee to help her in the shop. Souad has ambitious plans. “I learned how to save money and plan for my business growth in the training. I aim to establish an advertising company soon,” she concludes.

Families in the area prefer to send their girls to Souad’s studio because they trust female photographers. Photo: Bassam Saleh\CARE
Project participants during life skills training in Lahj. Photo credit: Bassam Saleh/CARE
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