Yemen: Microfinance projects help women make it
By Ashraf Al-Muraqab, Yemen Times
Women compose 65 to 75 percent of those borrowing money from microfinance projects funded by the Social Development Fund, a major government supporter of the microfinance sector.
Osama Al-Shami, head of the Micro Industries Unit of the Social Development Fund, said these projects and industries differ from one to another in terms of their activities in governorates nationwide.
“The activities include fishery and animal wealth in addition to agricultural and microindustrial activities in the cities,” Al-Shami said.
Many young Yemeni women take advantage of microfinance loans offered by some microfinance corporations in Yemen.
Three years ago, Muna Al-Sabahi opened her own business, which rents out wedding gowns. The income she makes by managing her own business helps to pay her bills.
“After one year, I was able to pay off all the debts that I owed when I embarked on my project,” Al-Sabahi said. “It was one million riyals. The shop also helped me gain some knowledge and broaden my thinking ability. It helps me remember my major in décor design.”
One shop wasn’t enough for Al-Sabahi. So she opened more. She promoted her microfinance project to involve three shops, in which she employed six of her colleagues majoring in décor design.
“I need not have a government job, for I have my private project now,” she said.
Al-Sabahi’s ambitions have not yet been fully realized; she aspires to own a wide range of shops for selling and renting wedding clothing and decorations. She is now taking courses in embroidery and sewing as a side project to go along with her work.
Regarding her work mechanism, she said, “I take second-hand gowns in order to redesign them. Thus, they appear new when selling or renting them. This helps me make a lot of money.”
Hanan Al-Haddad, a commerce college graduate, said she found a way to start her own business despite financial obstacles. She opened a beauty salon in the Shumaila neighborhood of Sana’a.
Through her work, she makes enough money to cover her family expenses. Al-Haddad said the only problem facing youth who want to start their own businesses is lack of financial means.
Mohammed Jobran, a professor at Sana’a University’s Commerce College, said microfinance takes priority in developing countries’ economic agendas. He said micro-projects are essential to combat poverty and unemployment in Yemen.
Jobran said young Yemenis struggle seeking loans because of the guarantees that must be given to banks in order for a loan to be approved. Moreover, interest added by banks to loans cause additional difficulties.