Mentoring programme pairs budding Syrian and Jordanian entrepreneurs


When 22-year-old social science graduate Haneen Hussen used to dream about starting her own business, she would get excited, then quickly discouraged when remembering the reality of the business landscape in her rural community of Shobak, in southern Jordan.

“Even though I would spend hours thinking about the concept and the idea, I would give up when I thought about the lack of women-led businesses in my area and whether I, a woman, could ever have the chance to start my own business” says Hussen. 


“That is, until I began the mentoring programme. On the first day of training, I was overwhelmed to meet 11 other women with the same hope of opening their own business and becoming women micro-entrepreneurs.” 


It was on that day that Hussen met Eman Salam, 55, a certified nurse who runs her own charities, and professional mentor through a UN Women-supported programme. She also runs a successful community initiative to assist children.


Eman Salam has become a professional and personal mentor to Haneen Hussen on her journey to become a micro-entrepreneur and set up her own business in the Shobak community. Photo: UN Women/Lauren Rooney 

“We clicked instantly. She listened to my business idea with such intensity and enthusiasm. Within moments she was giving me notes on where to start and who to contact,” says Hussen.


Salam says she was impressed with Hussen’s unique idea of kickstarting her own local entertainment and art therapy business for children.


“She had incredible energy and immediately evoked passion when she discussed her idea,” recalls Salam. “I will provide Haneen with all of the knowledge and experience that I have to shape and start her new business. But I will also be here for her in any times of need.”


Salam knows all too well that women business-owners face an uphill battle in Jordan. They represent only 4.3 per cent of the country’s entrepreneurs and confront considerable challenges in opening a business, both in terms of support from family and community, and in practical matters, such as access to finance. 


To support women entrepreneurs in the critical early stages of setting up their business, UN Women partnered with Mowgli to implement a mentoring programme that will empower 200 women refugees and Jordanian entrepreneurs in host communities. To build confidence, motivation, mindset, leadership and resilience, the strategy pairs and assists Syrian and Jordanian women micro-entrepreneurs.


Mentees and mentors are paired with their new mentors at a ceremony organized by Mowgli under the ‘Mentoring for Success’ programme in Shobak on 3 May 2019. Photo: UN Women/Lauren Rooney 

The initiative, which is generously funded through the European Union Regional Trust Fund in Response to the Syrian crisis (Madad), seeks to overcome the societal, psychological and gender-related challenges that prevent women in Jordan from creating and growing sustainable longer-term employment.


Syrian refugee Makyeh Al-Hamawi, 32, is now ready to forge a new life and launch a new business model in her local community. She put her professional and personal life on hold after fleeing Syria eight years ago and taking time to find her footing in Jordan. She started working for a local NGO welcoming new refugees to build community social cohesion. She would offer home-cooked meals as part of that initiative. 


Makyeh Al-Hamawi, 32, (left) embraces the mentor she will be paired with for the next six months to support her in developing her business in Shobak. Photo: UN Women/Lauren Rooney

“It was in a moment of wonder that I thought perhaps I could start a catering business,” she recalls. She applied for the Mowgli 'Mentoring for Success' Programme and was recently paired  with a mentor at a ceremony held in Shobak on 3 May 2019. 


“It took me by surprise when I realized that it was my confidence that was holding me back,” says Al-Hamawi. “Doubt has been the catalyst that has stopped me from moving forward. But for the first time in eight years, I feel alive by the prospect of starting my own business. I am surrounded by women who are doing the same and receiving support from an incredible mentor.”


Hussen and Salam where at the same pairing ceremony, where they were matched. “When our names were called together, we embraced one another with such intensity,” says Hussen. Read Hussen's story >


Salam was equally excited: “At this point I want to say to Haneen: You are spectacular and believe me, you are going to reach incredible heights. We are in this together now and we will succeed for you. Failure is not an option.” Read Salam's story >


The women will be paired together for six months. Mentors are volunteers who are trained to listen, guide and inspire to support mentees’ long-term personal and professional development and underpin private-sector-driven economic growth and job creation.


Eman Salam and Haneen Hussen embrace in celebration of being paired together as mentee and mentor in the Mowgli ‘Mentoring for Success’ Programme in Shobek. Photo: UN Women/Lauren Rooney