Rouaa’s dream came true.
“After being employed in nurseries for so many years, I have finally established my own,” says Rouaa who runs Happy Day nursery in Jordan. Photo: Christopher Herwig

Rouaa's dream came true

When Rouaa told her family she planned to take a loan to start her own business, they tried to dissuade her. “Everybody was against me, my husband the most,” she says. “Now I support them all.”

Five years ago, Rouaa opened Happy Day nursery in Amman, Jordan, after joining a training course run by Kvinna till Kvinna’s partner organisation The Families Development Association (FDA). Having worked in nurseries for seven years, she had dreamed of starting her own. “The course gave me the confidence to start my own venture,” she explains.

A microfinance initiative

Rouaa, a mother of three, is one of around 100 women in Jordan who have benefited from the FDA’s Izdehar Project, a microfinance initiative that seeks to empower women to join the labour market. Through vocational training programs in childcare and education, cooking and housekeeping, the project prepares women for the workforce, building their capabilities and confidence to improve their social and economic situations.

Challenging stereotypes

“One of the challenges we come up against is the culture of shame that surrounds women working,” explains Ribieh Hamadah, project manager at the FDA.

“Now, everyone in my family supports and is proud of me. Most of all, I’m proud of myself”, says Rouaa who has worked hard for her dream to come true.

In Jordan, it’s seen as more acceptable for women to be employed in certain industries, such as government and health-sector roles.

“We’re trying to confront this stereotype and encourage women to work in the private sector,” says Ribieh Hamadah.

A growing success

The Izdehar project began as a small, student-led initiative – part of a university requirement to spend 10 hours doing voluntary work. The students decided to invest more in their project and collected around JOD1,000 (USD1,400) to provide loans for female-led businesses. Women could take a loan to finance small ventures then pay it back later.

“The project has been a great success and one of these students has even become a board member at the FDA,” says Ribieh Hamadah.

New target groups

There’s over JOD7,000 (USD9,900) in the loan fund today and the project has since expanded to target unskilled women through its programme of vocational courses. This includes communications skills, interview tactics and awareness-raising sessions covering women’s rights in the labour market as well as their basic right to work.

“We have a very good reputation but it can still be a challenge to find women willing to take these courses,” Ribieh Hamadah explains.

“Some are influenced against taking employment by their husbands and the men in the family.”

“Everyone is proud of me”

Had Rouaa listened to her family, she wouldn’t be the owner of a flourishing business and the primary breadwinner in her household. She took a loan of JOD10,000 (USD14,000) and it paid off.

“Now, everyone in my family supports and is proud of me. Most of all, I’m proud of myself.”

Her nursery has grown quickly, from an initial enrolment of five toddlers to 32 children ranging from three months to four-years-old. There’s only one other nursery in the area says Rana, explaining that the business has helped other women by providing a reliable childcare service.

“It means more women can work, because they feel happy leaving their kids here and know it’s a safe place,” Rouaa says.

Living the dream

Children are kept busy with daily activities, interspersed with playtime.

“I love working with children. After being employed in nurseries for so many years, I have finally established my own,” says Rouaa.

Inside Happy Day, the walls are painted vivid hues and toys fill the rooms. There’s a small garden to the side of the building with a Wendy house and smiley faces painted on the front door offer a cheerful welcome. In the future, Rouaa’s hopes to expand and add a kindergarten, but just now her hands are full.

Other women on her course have also gone on to start businesses too, though none quite on this scale, Rouaa says. “This program helps women to reach their full potential, it raises them up.”

Olivia Cuthbert

Updated in: 2017-09-11