The role of women in Lebanon’s economic crisis – AUN News

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Women working together, to survive Lebanon’s economic crisis
Lebanese processed food. Courtesy: AUN News

In Kfardebian, north of Beirut, the Atayeb cooperative produces Lebanese local and traditional foods, including citrus marmalade, fruit jam, fruit paste, and the famous Lebanese Makdous (pickled eggplants in oil).

Every 13 women who make up the cooperative receives a share of the profits and a salary. Local farmers who sell their crops also benefit.

‘How I empower women’

“Teaching food processing skills was my way of empowering women,” explains Samira Zoughaib Akiki, chairperson of Al Atayeb. Being surrounded by generous women with a vision empowered me as well.

Over two decades ago, Ms. Akiki began running women’s food processing workshops and training sessions. Through this experience, she and her colleagues founded the Al Atayeb cooperative. They wanted to create job opportunities and ensure all members would share in its success.

The COVID-19 pandemic compounded Lebanon’s economic crisis; Ms. Akiki learned that UN Lebanon supported cooperatives like Al Atayeb.

According to Ms. Akiki, the UN provided monthly salaries for women to sustain their income, such as oil, sugar, and jars needed to preserve produce. “This addressed our financial needs, replenishing our capital and compensating our losses: we were able to resume our activities at a time when many businesses were shutting down.”

Ninety-four cooperatives from different villages in Lebanon, including Deir Al Ahmar, Fneidek, Qana, Harissa, and Lehfed, have been supported by UN Lebanon. Support has taken the form of cash for work and in-kind support such as raw materials, equipment, and tools. The German Development Bank KfW funded a $4.4 million project through the UN Development Program that benefited at least 6,000 people.

In Kfardebian, the Al Atayeb cooperative has helped many families survive crises, making women proud of themselves and their community. Ms. Akiki continues, “Our cooperative represents the values we hold dear. We work hard, help our community, and serve the public good”.

Al Atayeb is one of the small cooperatives which found place in the research project of Advocacy Unified Network for converting challenges into opportunities for cooperatives of the Global South.

A study by: Advocacy Unified Network

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