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Our impact, their voices

Learning to run a small business in conflict and poverty-wracked Yemen

The conflict in Yemen has robbed millions of people of their livelihoods, particularly in rural areas. A joint ILO-UNDP programme helps vulnerable youth set up their own business.

Feature | 11 October 2017
Bill Lyons/ World Bank
ASLAM DISTRICT, Yemen (ILO News) – Najah Ali, 24, beams as she explains how she has finally managed to set up a successful business to support her family, which like millions of others struggle to make ends meet amid Yemen’s devastating conflict.

“I cannot believe that my dream has become true. Business is good, and we generate good revenue,” says Najah, whose husband is unemployed.

After several failed attempts at setting up her own business, Najah attended a life skills and business start-up course run by the ILO and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). “The training course helped in building my self-confidence and acquiring the management skills and concepts needed to start my business. I am now a working woman who is financially able to support my family,” she said.

I am now a working woman who is financially able to support my family."

Najah Ali
Millions of people in Yemen are unable to meet their basic needs without humanitarian assistance, mainly as a result of more than 30 months of conflict, which robbed an estimated 8 million people of their livelihoods and exacerbated chronic vulnerabilities, particularly in rural areas.

The ILO “My First Business” training Najah attended is part of the Enhanced Rural Resilience in Yemen (ERRY) programme that aims to boost livelihood stabilization, food security, local governance, social cohesion and access to sustainable energy. The initiative is funded by the European Union and managed by the ILO, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), UNDP and the World Food Programme (WFP).

Thanks to the training, Najah, together with five other participants, presented a viable business plan for establishing a ready-made clothes shop. She generated income and saved capital through cash-for-work activities by spending 30 days building a hut and cultivating a farm. Each participant’s capital was tripled and a business start-up grant was provided through the ERRY project.

“At the beginning, I thought the business start-up course was going to be very difficult for me, but as soon as I joined I began to understand many business concepts that I was not aware of. I liked the course design which was very participatory and included practical sessions which made the material simple and accessible,” Najah said.