Rebuilding Dreams in Yemen

Stepping into Heba Hamed‘s salon in Aden, Yemen, feels like a defiance of the war’s long shadow that stretches across the city. Here, amidst the struggle, and despite losing her husband to the conflict, Heba has carved a path to self-sufficiency. Her story is just one spark in a growing movement of Yemeni women who are rising from the ashes, not with weapons, but with their skills and crafts.

Client

World Food Programme

Location

Aden, Yemen

Year

2022-2023

Heba’s journey is etched with loss. “Due to the war, I had to stop for a long time,” she says softly, referring to her passion for hair and makeup artistry, once a mere hobby. But Heba isn’t one to give up. When a lifeline emerged – a business skills training program offered by the World Food Programme (WFP) – she grabbed it with both hands.

This program isn’t your average handout. Imagine learning in-demand skills like beekeeping or tailoring, then getting the training and cash to launch your own business. That’s the magic of the WFP’s initiative – a beacon of hope in a country where nearly a decade of war has crippled the economy and left millions facing hunger. Women, especially, are slammed with a double burden – the constant fear of unemployment and the weight of societal constraints.

The WFP program tackles these issues head-on. Participants choose their weapon of choice – maybe it’s mastering the art of pastries or creating show-stopping henna designs. They also get schooled in the nitty-gritty of running a business, from customer service to keeping those books balanced. Plus, WFP throws in some seed funding to help them get started.

Heba - Makeup artist from Yemen - WFP in Yemen

Liza's bakery - supported by WFP Yemen

The results are as inspiring as the scent of freshly baked bread wafting from Liza Adnan’s home. A graduate of the program’s culinary course, Liza has transformed her kitchen table into a bakery of dreams. “This training has been an opportunity to stand on our own feet,” she says, a hint of pride in her voice. Now, she’s not just feeding her family of six, she’s whipping up delicious treats and catering events, becoming a pillar in her community.

Omnia Ibrahim Omar Hassan doesn’t wield a whisk, but her weapon is just as powerful – a henna cone. This henna artist uses her skills to support her entire 15-member household. Henna artistry isn’t just her income; it’s a cultural treasure she shares, leaving her clients adorned with intricate designs and a touch of joy. “Henna drawing has become my source of strength,” Omnia explains, “and enables me to fulfill my responsibility towards my sisters.”

Of course, it’s not all sunshine and baklava. Power outages are a daily struggle, a grim reminder of the war’s damage. Yemen’s economic woes, with its plummeting currency and skyrocketing prices, make the market unpredictable. But these women are warriors.

Heba dreams of opening a full-blown beauty center, a place to create jobs and empower other Yemeni girls. “My ambition knows no bounds,” she declares. Liza finds purpose in the joy her food brings, and Omnia cherishes the freedom to express her creativity while providing for her family.

The WFP’s business skills program isn’t just fighting hunger; it’s building a future. By equipping Yemeni women with the tools and confidence to succeed, they’re not just changing lives, they’re proving that even in the face of war, the entrepreneurial spirit can’t be contained. So, the next time you hear about Yemen, remember these women – they’re not just survivors, they’re the future, one baklava, perfectly winged eyeliner, and intricate henna design at a time.

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