27 September 2011
In a poor, rural environment such as Husseinieh in Syria, a woman’s income can well make the difference for families. In this gathering for Palestine refugees, remote from job-rich business centres, work opportunities are few and many refugees only just manage to eke out a living.
In February, 26-year-old Buthayna Khizai’ joined a training course on enterpreneurship run by the business advice service at the UNRWA engaging youth centre in Husseinieh. Just six months later, she is running her own successful yoghurt shop.
Asked about how she succeeded in such a risky operation, Buthayna replied: “This training is more helpful than money. The sessions cover everything from how to write a serious business plan to customer relations. When I was told that the centre approved my application, I could not believe my ears.”
UNRWA’s training course was just the spark she needed, and her booster Buthayna’s self-esteem. “It has given me new hope,” she said.
The engaging youth centre in Husseinieh is one of 12 based in Palestinian camps around Syria. UNRWA’s engaging youth project marks the beginning of a long-term effort to create better prospects for young Palestinian refugees. Every centre strives to accompany each one in their transition from school to work.
Buthayna said: “At the beginning my intention was to open a hairdressing and cosmetic shop, but thanks to the business facilitator who guided me through the local market research, I found that a dairy shop is better than hairdressing. My brother-in-law taught me how to curd the milk.”
“I began my business with some reservations, until it proved to be productive and rewarding,” she said. “I liked the idea from the beginning, but now I see that I earn enough to supplement the family’s income.
“But what matters most is that my customers know that my yogurt is prepared by a woman. I am proud to say that the shop is owned and run by me. I have gained courage to talk in front of the others. I was shy to talk in front of other people before.”
With her new-found confidence she is considering expanding production further. She also hopes to buy a car to distribute yogurt and a house for her family. Buthayna’s reputation is growing quickly and orders now come even from other villages.
As a successful businesswoman, Buthayna has become a role model in her community, where other young women admire her hard-working nature, diligence, patience and self-motivation.
She represents thousands of underprivileged Palestinian youth who can now find support to seize opportunities to provide their families with a better life. “I love what the engaging youth centre has done so far for me and for other young refugees. I am proud that they ask me to talk to other young people to share my experience.”