Success Stories

One Woman's Story of Economic Empowerment in Lebanon

 

Located on the southwestern coast of Lebanon, Saida city lies 25 miles from Beirut. As one passes through the regions of Saida, one cannot help but notice the remarkable disparity in social and economic classes in this city of more than 250,000.

 

Amal Jomaa, a 50-year old mother of three, left school at 15 to begin working. After marrying, she stopped working until five years ago, when her husband died, leaving her with no source of income to support herself and her children. Because of her age and low socio-economic position, Amal found it nearly impossible to obtain a job until she came across the Ahlouna organization, a sustainable agro-food production facility. Ahlouna, which means “our parents” in Arabic, is a local organization formed in Saida by a number of philanthropic women that care for poor, underprivileged women, including divorcees, widows, and the handicapped. The Ahlouna organization, which has a sustainable agro-food production facility opened by the CHF/Lebanon CEDARS program, welcomed Amal four years ago where she has been working ever since. When she first began working in the kitchen, she had no clue about cuisine, food quality and safety, cooking, agro-food production, or the food industry, but through training, she has been able to secure a decent source of income to support her family.

 

Under the USAID-funded CEDARS program, CHF International established a new agro-food production facility enabling expanded and improved production of agro-food products. The work begun with CEDARS now continues under the CEDARSplus program, also funded by USAID, by expanding Ahlouna’s activities and constructing the second phase of the new agro-food production facility.

 

Amal is now a supervisor in the food industry of Ahlouna organization. “These sessions helped me so much…I can safely say that my work improved by 80%,” she said. Amal attended all training sessions provided by CHF, in addition to other training programs, including the most recent session held on February 23rd. “Thanks to Ahlouna, I discovered my skills in cooking, and thanks to CHF, I developed it.”

 

Because of her work with Ahlouna, Amal can now afford to pay the school tuition fees of her children as well as for clothes, books and food to feed her children. “I feel I am stronger because I expanded my knowledge of my work” Amal stated. She wishes that every underprivileged woman would be able to get the support and encouragement that she was able to have. Amal’s only ambition is to increase and enrich her education and knowledge in her work. She has even gotten various offers for other job opportunities, but she finds herself loyal to Ahlouna and unable to leave them. “I am very happy because I am now free to choose and decide” she expressed.