To date, 495 women in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, and Morocco have completed AMIDEAST’s Skills for Success® program. Many have since found jobs, started internships, considered starting a business, or returned to school. A surprising outcome, in fact, is that over 40 percent of the graduates across three countries have decided to continue their studies, at university or elsewhere, because of the new-found confidence and determination that they gained in the program.
No wonder, then, that the two-year-old program featured prominently at the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM)’s recent high-level conference, “Women for the Mediterranean: Driving Force for Development and Stability.” The assembled ministers, experts, and representatives of international organizations, civil society, and NGOs identified employment creation as key to strengthening the role of women as agents of change for the MENA region.
While development of transferrable skills is its primary objective, the Skills for Success program goes far beyond training in the English language, IT, and job readiness skills that prepare participants to access entry-level jobs. It also takes into account obstacles such as family and cultural bias, discrimination in a male-dominated workforce, and limited awareness of women’s rights in the workplace, as well as the different realities of the young women, from an interrupted education to inexperience in the labor market and limited access to information and technology.
“Participants have been greatly impacted by this aspect of the program, with most saying they had never had the opportunity to explore these issues,” Helena Simas, AMIDEAST’s regional English language training director, told the gathering. “Such a process also helps build her confidence, and prepare her for the change and uncertainty that she will likely face.”
Simas, who has played a key role in developing and implementing the program, adds, ”In measuring the program’s success, we go beyond job statistics. Very importantly, we have consistent evidence of the impact of this initiative on the women’s ability to find meaningful work in the future, to make decisions based on increased awareness and information, and to feel more confident in making these choices.”
For Fatima Al Annan, one of 99 Lebanese women who completed the program, Skills provided a “push and positive thinking” that helped them overcome the lack of professional skills and self-confidence that many Lebanese girls, especially in rural areas, suffer from because of cultural values that limit their ability to pursue work or education. Fatima was offered two jobs after the program, and now works for the Ministry of Defense in Lebanon.
“The skills we acquired — from English to computer to professional skills — gave us self-confidence and motivated us to set goals, plan, and believe that we can achieve whatever we aspire to do and become,” she asserted in remarks to the conference.
Skills for Success was made possible in these four countries through funding from the ILO, the Norwegian and Flemish governments, Pepsico, and the AMIDEAST/Lebanon Advisory Board.