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The United Nations Forum in Bahrain ended with a call to support women entrepreneurs in conflict areas

Coming from Afghanistan, Algeria, Iraq, Sudan and Gaza, women entrepreneurs took center stage at the closing of the 2024 World Entrepreneur Investment Forum (WEIF), has been operating since Tuesday in Bahrain’s capital Manama.

In a group discussion about ‘Women, Peace and Security‘ and then in exclusive interviews with us UN News team reported from the forum site, women entrepreneurs shared touching stories about how their projects inspired them to help others and about the need for more funding .

The Gaza conflict hinders women-led projects

Tahani Abu Daqqa, a Palestinian businesswoman from Gaza has been in the area since the start of the most recent conflict, about seven months. She left three weeks ago and was about to return, but the border was closed, giving her an unexpected opportunity to attend WEIF.

Ms. Abu Daqqa said she is “the first Palestinian woman to work in Gaza to create job opportunities for women such as clothing and cookie factories, so that they can… stay in Gaza for many people.” Gaza will go to work outside the Strip.”

Tahani Abu Daqqa (on screen), a Palestinian businesswoman from Gaza.

However, her work towards empowering women has faced many challenges. Recurrent conflict in the Gaza Strip since 2007 has hindered progress on her projects.

For example, she says, “I founded the Damour Foundation, which focuses on environmental initiatives, like solar-powered water attractors and wastewater treatment equipment. I also created ‘Living in Gaza for Renewable Energy’ while facing financial challenges. I finally succeeded, only to see the project destroyed before completion.”

After the outbreak of the current conflict, everything changed.

“Suddenly I had to relocate to an area near the sea. I can rent a small place to stay but women and children have to take shelter on the street because they have to relocate and I have to do something to help them. We have nothing, no banks, no money.”

Ms. Abu Daqqa said she completed a project recently but fell into debt worth more than $2.5 million, however, “I forgot all about the problems I was going through…I started thinking about Woman with her child in the rain [without shelter]So I started raising money from friends and relatives to set up camp.”

Participants take part in a panel discussion on women entrepreneurs in conflict zones at the World Entrepreneurial Investment Forum in Bahrain.

Unfortunately, she continued, there were no tents because international organizations were not prepared. “So, to carry out this work in times of emergency, I started buying wood, gathered relatives and volunteers and started setting up tents day and night.”

“Jewish friends raised $5,000 to help me leave Gaza, but I allocated that money to build tents for the people,” she explained. UN News.

‘Sudanese lives and dreams matter’

Alaa Hamadto, a Sudanese mother of three daughters, is the CEO and founder of Solar Food, a cleantech startup and pioneer in the dry food industry in Sudan.

“Solar Foods uses a solar drying process to produce a variety of organic dried food products packaged in environmentally friendly packaging, serving both the retail and wholesale markets .”

Ms. Hamadto’s factory was destroyed amid conflict in Sudan. “We used to export our products to seven countries, including the UK, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Qatar. My business is located at a factory campus in Sudan,” she explains.

She went on to say, “My ultimate vision is to make a positive impact on people’s lives. This can be achieved by helping smallholder farmers. I am also trying to spread the concept of solar drying and its benefits to the people.”

Alaa Hamadto is a Sudanese mother of three daughters and she is also the CEO and founder of Solar Food.

After the war broke out more than a year ago, Ms. Hamadto said she lost everything.

“Sudanese lives matter. Sudan’s dream is very important. We have faced terrible things. The Sudanese people lost everything. Their factories were destroyed. We have lost valuables. We have lost our people. Women were raped.”

“Everyone says what’s happening in Sudan is a… civil war, but that’s not true. It’s a war for resources [become] people [conflict].”

When the conflict broke out, Ms. Hamadto initially fled to Egypt but then decided to return to Sudan.

“I chose to go back to set up a drying factory, but it was really difficult to operate again in Sudan,” she said, citing challenges such as inflation, equipment scarcity, barriers communications disruption, frequent power cuts and security threats such as bombings and drones. .

Despite all this, she said: “I think we are building resilience. We know that no one will come to save us and it is up to us to stand up again.”

Empowering Afghan mothers

Malalai Helmandi, CEO of solar energy producer Helmandi Solar in Afghanistan, and her husband Hamid Helmand are working on projects to empower women in the Asian country.

She explained, adding that 47 years of war in Afghanistan have weakened mothers’ role as family breadwinners.

Malalai Helmandi, CEO of solar power producer Helmandi Solar in Afghanistan, and her husband, Hamid Helmand, head of the company.

“[A mother] spend most of your time during the most important years of your child’s development. And in a culture like Afghanistan, where the family unit is very strong, I see that those families [are more stable] where the mother is empowered, knowledgeable, and has the opportunity to bring in an income for herself, or at a minimum, be part of the decision-making through something that could be… income.”

For his part, Mr. Helmand said that after three days at WEIF, he will return home with the belief that “with my efforts, ideas and thoughts, I think we can restore our responsibilities and those jobs for women because 80% of those women have lost those responsibilities and jobs.” their jobs because of the war and because of what happened in that area.”

‘Conflict in Iraq cannot stop me’

In 2018, the Iraqi Government is fighting against the militant group ISIS, but these conditions do not stop Basima Abdulrahman, Founder and CEO of the company KESK, which searches for energy solutions Greentech through technology.

“I decided to build a sustainable business because I love sustainability, [but] I had no idea it would become a climate action business,” Ms. Abdulrahman said UN News.

Basima Abdulrahman, Founder and CEO of KESK company.

She added: “I am not afraid of ongoing conflict because climate change is as big a threat as ISIS, so actions to combat [both] We have to go together and not fight in a particular order so I decided it’s not too early but maybe too late.”

Ms. Abdulrahman believes that for Iraq, the transition to renewable energy is not just a strategic plan or a luxury but a necessity. There is a 50% electricity shortage in the country and this gap is currently being filled by generators that pollute the environment and do not really close the gap. On top of that, they’re expensive.

She called on women entrepreneurs in conflict zones, or in areas where there is peace but patriarchy remains entrenched, to “start a big business and grow it. You can always be resilient, strengthen your business and move forward despite any challenges you face.”

Group photo of participants at the World Entrepreneurial Investment Forum (WEIF) in Manama, Bahrain.

The voice of entrepreneurs has been heard

As the curtain fell on WEIF2024 in Manama, Dr. Hashim Hussein, Head of Department UNIDO The Technology and Investment Promotion Office in Bahrain, which coordinates the forum, said he was proud that “we were able to ensure that entrepreneurs spoke up”.

“We see that businessmen in the United Nations system have had the opportunity to speak. And young people, we are listening to them now; They were just listeners.”

He went on to say: “I think the greatest achievement of WEIF 2024 is that we have…engaged the international community in recognizing and understanding the issues and difficulties of women in conflict and how We can help them.”

I said UN News on the sidelines of the forum said that support must be through economic development, to ensure that they feed their families “and of course, the communities and countries in which they live. I think this will be our great achievement this time.” year of the World Intervention Investment Forum 2024.”


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