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WAEDAT supports women entrepreneurs

Um Tal’at is a mother of three grown-ups whom she raised and supported through her own initiative, needlework. Although she has been in the business for many years but she still lacks the appropriate promotion and marketing tools of her product; thus potential customers are unaware of her work. She manages to sell her products through contacts and close friends within her neighborhood in Zarqa.

“Many people told me that my needlework is of high-quality and I can make good returns on it,” she said. “But I am still facing problems in finding the appropriate method to marketing the products throughout the country,” explained the mother, whose husband is a pensioner and lacks the sufficient resources to support his household.

With a modest commercial demand for her embroidered clothes, Um Tal’aat pointed out that the raw materials cost her plenty since she has to obtain them through different sources.

Her average monthly income from her business hardly reaches JD 100, and she refuses to ask her sons for help, as some are married and have responsibilities of their own. “I could bear the costs of my business if I find the proper venue to market my products,” she said. The prices of her products, she said, are reasonable considering the quality and type of embroidery she applies on handmade garments. “People nowadays often prefer to have the readymade thobs [traditional dresses] and accessories rather than the handmade ones,” she added. Um Tal’aat was among the tens of women and housewives that took part this week in the one-day event of a program titled “Women’s Access to Entrepreneurship Development and Training” (WAEDAT)— coincidentally means promising young women in Arabic.

The event highlighted products and services presented or made by Jordanian women. The exhibition was the first of its kind in Jordan, and featured a wide-ranging participation of women from different parts of the Kingdom. The displayed products and services varied from handicrafts, accessories, foodstuffs and garments. WAEDAT’s efforts are part of the microfinance environment in Jordan; women entrepreneurs have benefited extensively from it. There is still no official statistics of women entrepreneurs in Jordan, but recent reports indicated that women’s demand of micro-credit is estimated at JD 120 million. WAEDAT program runs jointly with the US-based Citizens Development Corps (CDC)—a non-governmental organization dedicated to promoting economic development in emerging markets and transition economies. The program is also sponsored by the US Agency for International Development.

Most of the women that took part in the exhibition usually work at home. For that reason, WAEDAT contacted interested companies and retail businesses to come and visit the show and approach these women to provide them the required means and access to the local market. Fatima Shakhatra is a talented housewife from Madaba who produces objects made of straw. A good collection of her handmade products was spread on the table before her at the show, featuring a decorated table set and an embodied miniature Bedouin tent. She has been in the business for two years, and it earned her a moderate income. “One of the visitors at the show asked me to work with him, since he runs a hotel and a travel agency. He placed an order for a wide collection of Bedouin tents and accessories to be displayed and sold for tourists,” said Shakhatra, a mother of two.

The businessman pledged the lady to provide her with the required raw materials to manufacture the products. The middle-aged mother made discounts on prices of her products at the show to encourage visitors. She said that such discounts “would help sell her products and bring her a much needed income.” The hotel owner’s venture with Shakhatra promises her with better future. “I am committed to meet the demands once the raw material is available,” she said. The WAEDAT program was launched in August 2004; it does not grant direct financial aid but facilitates women’s access to financial institutions notably the Development and Employment Fund. “The program aims at making a fundamental transformation in social attitudes towards women, by having a well-established social structure that recognizes women entrepreneurs, and upgrading women’s potentials on the financial and physical aspects,” said Wejdan Abu Lail, WAEDAT’s program coordinator. Enhancing the concept of entrepreneurship among women is also a priority for WAEDAT. Abu Lail told The Star that the program incorporates women from rural areas despite social and financial hardships.

The program, she said, helps in creating “a useful database on women, their endeavors and challenges” since it wants to impact on these women, not only economically but also socially. Over 80 women from four governorates: Amman, Irbid, Zarqa and Madaba, joined WAEDAT program over the past few months and had undertaken intensive rehabilitation and training under the program’s supervision. “Our consultants constantly review and appraise the achievements of the participating women in order to enhance their capabilities,” she said.

The program targets women involved in: Health, foodstuffs, cosmetics, and Dead Sea products. Such products were ample at the show, mainly cosmetics that drew the attention of visiting women. As for health, Abu Lail said there are women with medical or pharmaceutical backgrounds who produce herbal ointments and beauty creams but they need support and sponsorship to make their products sell. She added that some women like to market their cosmetics internationally, but need guidance on conformity with the international standards.

Amman,03 21 2005
Ghassan Joha
The Star
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