Empowering Dreams: Stories of Resilience and Successful Entrepreneurship in Yemen

July 1, 2024

Supporting Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises ensures employment opportunities and fosters economic inclusivity in Yemen. Through the collective efforts of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the World Food Programme (WFP), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), and the International Labor Organization (ILO), with support from the European Union and the Government of Sweden, support to MSMEs through the ERRY III Joint Programme has significantly improved livelihoods, supporting food security, and entrepreneurship amongst Yemenis.

Abeer's Journey: From iPhone Snaps to Professional Photography

Abeer at the ERRY JP III exhibition in Aden.

UNDP Yemen / 2024

Abeer, 23 years old, started honing her photography skills four years ago. Using her iPhone, she captured fleeting moments and everyday beauty. Each shot was a learning experience, a step towards her ultimate dream of becoming a renowned photographer.

Abeer dreamt of owning a professional camera and a grand studio equipped with cutting-edge tools. Her family encouraged her every step of the way, instilling in her the power of patience and perseverance.

She started saving money to buy a professional camera and joined a photography team in Lahj, however, lacking the equipment needed posed significant challenges. Discouraged but not defeated, her love for photography kept her going.

Through support from the Supporting Resilient Livelihoods, Food Security and Climate Adaptation in Yemen Programme (ERRY JP III), Abeer received a small grant to purchase the camera she required to pursue her passion.

With support from UNDP's local partner, For All Foundation, Abeer's entrepreneurial journey began. 

To secure a stable income, she joined a photography crew in Aden and connected with people from all walks of life, capturing their stories through her lens. Back home, she photographs weddings and graduation parties, helping her to contribute significantly to her family's well-being.

Abeer, empowered by ERRY JP III, uses her new camera to document the thriving businesses in Aden.

UNDP Yemen / 2024

“Never stop chasing your dreams,” Abeer proudly declares.

Recently, Abeer was invited to an ERRY JP III exhibition in Aden, not as a participant, but as an entrepreneur. With her new camera, she captured photos of other established businesses with ERRY JP III’s support. She communicated the impact of the programme on lives of community members through expressive photos and videos. 

Honey and Hope: Zuhour’s Journey to Empowerment

Zuhour, with support from ERRY JP III, harvests honey from her newly established beekeeping business in Hajjah Governorate.

UNDP Yemen / 2024

Deep in the Yemeni countryside of Hajjah Governorate, 24-year-old Zuhour lives a difficult life.  She shoulders the burden of caring for eleven family members while her husband struggles to find work. Her son's illness has led the family to borrow money for health treatments. 

Zuhour received training in beekeeping and business skills through the ERRY JP III.  

Determined to build a better future and combining the programme’s training with knowledge from a friend, she launched her own beekeeping business.

"It felt like a lifeline," Zuhour recalls. “This programme offered hope for my family’s future."

For Zuhour, this project wasn't just about income; it was a demonstration of the ability and strength of women to lead and build thriving businesses. 

Zuhour cares for her bees in Hajjah, keeping them healthy for delicious honey.

UNDP Yemen / 2024

“Traditionally, women in my community weren't seen working outside the home. But this programme gave me the tools, and now I'm a beekeeper, running a successful business and providing for my family,” Zuhour says.

Within five months, her life was transformed. Not only did she become a skilled beekeeper, but her honey became a prized possession at the market. Her first profit, a significant 70,000 Yemeni riyals, brought immediate relief. It covered basic needs and ensured the bees had enough food to thrive.

Empowered by her thriving beekeeping business, Zuhour became financially independent, able to care for her family's needs. She aims to ensure a better education for her children, hoping for a bright future, as sweet as the honey she produces.

From Meager Earnings to a Thriving Flour Enterprise

Adnan stands beside his new mill in his shop located in Al-Mahwit Governorate.

UNDP Yemen / 2024

In a remote village in Al-Mahwit Governorate, lives Adnan, a 43-year old father who faces the daily task of providing for his five children. Adnan previously spent his days working tirelessly at an old mill, sharing with his brothers a meager income that barely met their basic needs.

Through the ERRY JP III, Adnan participated in a road paving initiative, implemented in partnership with local organization Life Makers Meeting Place Organization (LMMPO). He also received training in business management and a start-up grant to launch his own business. Adnan bought a used mill, set up shop near his home, and started offering milling services to customers in his village.

Adnan's mill quickly flourished, becoming a lifeline for the surrounding villages. His income increased, quickly allowing him to earn more on his own than he did previously in partnership with others. The impact of Adnan's new business venture has positively impacted the lives of his family and the entire community. 

“The project's impact extends far beyond me. It's a lifeline for our entire community,” Adnan says.

Adnan aims to extend his business’s scope and generate greater profits. His vision included purchasing more grains and expanding his sales to neighboring villages, creating additional employment opportunities, and increasing his income.

Najat’s One-Stop Shop for Women's Needs 

Najat runs a well-stocked shop in her village, Najra district, Hajjah.

UNDP Yemen / 2024

Najat, a 38-year-old mother, wanted a brighter future for her family and easier life for women in her village in Najra district of Hajjah. Unfortunately, societal limitations made it difficult for women to freely access markets. This constant struggle motivated Najat to create a solution. 

Fueled by a desire for change, she started her entrepreneurial journey. She opened a small clothing shop, capitalizing on the skills of local female tailors. This wasn't just about selling clothes; it was about creating a safe space. 

"Women could finally purchase what they needed without feeling afraid or uncomfortable," Najat says with pride.

Utilizing the skills she gained in business management training provided with local partner Sustainable Development Foundation (SDF) Najat’s success was overwhelming. 

"My goal was to empower women, and the response was beyond anything I imagined, " she declares.

Driven by her initial success, she transformed her shop into a one-stop haven for women. Household goods, appliances, and a dedicated grocery section with essential food items were added, catering to their diverse needs.

Reflecting on the impact, Najat says, “Participating in the training was a turning point. It empowered me to transform my initial idea into a thriving enterprise that not only supports my family but also serves the women in my village."

In her shop, Najat helps women in Najra district, Hajjah, find what they need.

UNDP Yemen / 2024

Breaking Barriers: Sali’s Mobile Maintenance Store

At 29 years old, Sali is ready to serve the needs of her clients at her newly opened mobile maintenance store in Al Ma’afer District, Taizz Governorate. As a participant in the livelihoods component of the ERRY JP III Programme, she received training in mobile maintenance from local partner Social Fund for Development and the International Labour Organization. Before this opportunity, Sali struggled to find meaningful employment in a community with limited opportunities for women in technical fields.

Sali’s training covered everything from basic phone repairs to business management and customer service. Sali noticed many women were hesitant to take their phones to existing technicians due to privacy concerns. To address this, she created a workshop dedicated to women, offering a safe space for device repairs. 

"In response to the challenges faced by some women, including electronic blackmail, photo leaks, hacking, and data violations, I established a dedicated workshop for women aiming to provide a space that fosters trust and enhanced security for women," Sali explains.

"This training changed my life," Sali reflects. Her store not only empowers her but also provides a trusted space for women in her community. 

The stories of Abeer, Zuhour, Adnan, Najat, and Sali highlight the ERRY III Joint Programme’s success in fostering resilience and providing sustainable income opportunities, demonstrating the profound impact of collective action in creating lasting change and driving progress in Yemen.