After some resistance from her husband, Ibtissam Jaber joined Yanouh cooperative in rural South Lebanon. Jaber, a mother of seven, loves producing traditional agro-foods and believes in the importance of contributing to her household’s income. By selling her products at food exhibitions across the country, she has now transitioned from being a small-scale producer to a profitable entrepreneur.
My husband never liked the thought of me working outside the home. When my friends encouraged me to join Yanouh cooperative and invited me to the project’s first meeting, he forbade me from going.
Once I explained the economic benefits of participating in the trainings and the exhibitions, he was intrigued by the idea. He told me: ‘Ok, you can go, but only to the training and only if they are in our village’. After some more convincing, he said: ‘Ok, you can go to both the trainings and exhibitions – but only if they are in our region’. After even more convincing, he told me: ‘Ok, you can go to the exhibitions in Beirut’. He had finally become comfortable with the idea. This was a big accomplishment for me.
This year, I sold my products at ‘Ardi’ a very well-known food exhibition in Beirut. The event lasted 10 days. Every morning I woke up, sent my children to school, and then traveled to Beirut—like a true businesswoman! My products generated a total of USD 4000. Never in my life had I imagined I would earn so much money. When I used to sell my products from home, I only earned USD 200 per week.
Joining Yanouh cooperative has been life-changing for me. It not only boosted my family’s income, but also increased my freedom of movement as a woman. Gender relations in our family have improved. My son helped me encourage his father – my husband – to join the cooperative. And now, one of my daughters is following my footsteps and becoming a member of Yanouh as well!
I, as many other women in this village, have been cultivating and processing traditional agro-foods, such as tomato paste and soaked olives, for our relatives and neighbours since we were young girls. Why not join forces and boost our community’s income and wellbeing by doing what we love most? The training sessions inspired me to be more innovative in cooking. I am looking forward to experimenting with new recipes and products, such as watermelon jam.”
Ibtissam Jaber, 46, is an entrepreneur working with Yanouh agricultural cooperative. As a beneficiary of Lebanon Family Planning Association and UN Women’s Fund for Gender Equality project, “Promotion of the Economic Status of Women in South Lebanon”, she participates in production technique and business skill training and sells her products at food exhibitions. Her story shows how women’s empowerment is key for ending poverty (SDG 1) and the value of sustainable, inclusive economic empowerment (SDG 8).