Small business and female empowerment in Syria
Many Arab nations are challenged as to how to create economic independence for women in traditionally male dominated cultures. It has been observed universally that the more women are educated and engaged in the economy the greater the advances made at a national development level. Queen Rania of Jordan probably says it best,, “… it isn’t just a tragedy for individual girls and women. It’s a terrible loss for the whole world. When half of a society’s talent base is neglected and wasted, development suffers, progress is stunted, and everyone pays the price.” These are words of wisdom, but actualizing them is not as easy as it sounds.
However good news from Syria indicates that given an opportunity there are women entrepreneurs ready to step up and take on the challenge. Mother of seven, Sheikha al-Shaaban, has established a successful car wash business in her village after getting funding from a micro-loan organization targeting women led ventures; she has no intent of stopping there though and is now planning to extend her empire by also opening a bakery.
Rising from a village in south west of Syria is a woman who is breaking through social constraints and venturing into a world monopolized by men by opening the first car wash shop run by a female in the country.
With seven children to support, Sheikha al-Shaaban opened her shop by taking a loan offered by a program aimed helping women set up business in impoverished areas such as her village of al-Maal, on the border with Jordan.
” We want to make our financial situation better and to liberate ourselves from social norms “
“We want to make our financial situation better and to liberate ourselves from social norms,” Shaaban told Al Arabiya. “Poverty and unemployment are serious problems here.”
Shaaban noted that most women in her village and the neighboring villages do nothing except cook and raise children and they have no income of their own.
“However, when they see how profitable and useful projects like mine are, they will be encouraged to follow suit with similar or better projects.”