This October, AMIDEAST and Citi Foundation launched the third phase of the Arab Women’s Entrepreneurship Project (AWEP), designed to empower women entrepreneurs by providing them with the skills and techniques that will enable them to fully realize their economic potential and to allow them to benefit from networking and mentoring relationships that foster business success. The third round of AWEP will be offered in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, and Morocco, with 20 women selected in each country.
The economic participation of women in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is lower than anywhere else in the world. MENA women have limited access to financial and training services, and face far higher unemployment rates than men. Added to this are common perceptions and beliefs that women should not be the financial heads of households.
AWEP addresses these constraints by providing critical training and support to women entrepreneurs. Training focuses on building entrepreneurship awareness and fundamental business skills, such as entrepreneurial mindset and personal development skills; formulating a business plan; customer support; sales; use of technology for business growth, and financial literacy. The language of instruction is Arabic to ensure maximum inclusivity.
An initial 15 days of training is followed by a six-month period of follow-up training sessions and mentorship meetings. Successful local women entrepreneurs are regularly invited as guest speakers to inspire and motivate the participants, and representatives of local banks and microfinance institutions offer guidance on available funding options. In addition, the women are connected via various social media platforms, and the participants from previous years are invited to meet, network with, and support their counterparts.
Since its first round of training in 2011, the AWEP program has advanced the entrepreneurial aspirations of 140 underserved women in six countries. (The countries included Lebanon, Kuwait, Morocco and the UAE during the first year, and Lebanon, Morocco, Egypt, and Jordan during the second). AMIDEAST is currently launching the third round of training; its Lebanon and Morocco offices are now accepting applications while Egypt and Jordan will start doing so as of early November.
AMIDEAST’s experience with this program over the past two years has demonstrated that training in best business and related financial practices, and instruction on how to apply for funding, combined with ongoing support and mentoring, advances the aspirations of Arab women entrepreneurs.
Allyson Jerab is the Regional Coordinator of the Arab Women's Entrepreneurship Program, AMIDEAST.
AMIDEAST is an American nonprofit organization with over 20 offices in the Middle East and North Africa. It works to expand educational opportunities and quality, strengthen the capacity of local institutions, and assist individuals seeking to develop language and business skills necessary for success in the global economy.
Citi Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Citi, is committed to the economic empowerment of individuals and families, particularly those in need, in the communities where Citi works. It strategically funds programs that can help such individuals and families improve their standard of living.
More information can be found at: www.amideast.org and www.citifoundation.com
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