Lebanon's First Woman Electrician
In 2006 war devastated areas of Southern Lebanon. In recent years, the pace of reconstruction has been enhanced by a new program that trains young people at risk for long term unemployment in job skills in the building and construction industries. One of the brightest prospects from the new program is also one of the most unlikely; she’s on track to become southern Lebanon’s first woman electrician.
Sarafand is like many other villages in southern Lebanon; roads, bridges and buildings were damaged in the 2006 war.
Hajer Slim remembers the war, and the day her brother brought home an electric heater; it didn’t work.
Hajer Slim (in Arabic):
“I decided I wanted to fix it. So I opened it up and discovered the problem: the wires were burnt. I reconnected the wires and I fixed it. After that the heater worked fine.”
Hajer heard about an ILO training program funded by Italy, where she could learn the skills to become a professional electrician. But her parents were against the idea; they thought people would make fun of a woman doing a job traditionally done by men.
Hajer’s sister Zeinab persuaded their parents to give Hajer a chance. She remembers the students’ reaction on the first day:
Zeinab Ali Slim, Hajer’s Sister (in Arabic):
“The first day, everyone asked me if that was my sister, and what was she doing working with electricity, doesn’t she know it is very dangerous? I told everyone she likes it, it’s her hobby.”
Abdelhamid Kalai is the ILO’s chief technical advisor helping facilitate the skills training program. For him, Hajer stood out right away.
Abdelhamid Kalai, ILO Job Skills Program, Southern Lebanon (in English):
“Hajer is a very enthusiastic person. Once she heard about this program she ran to enroll, to enlist in this program, challenging all the taboos”
Training young people in specific skills to meet the demands of the job market is the result of a partnership between the Government of Lebanon, workers organizations and employers.
Mohammed Rammal, Lebanon Ministry of Labour (in Arabic):
“This training gives young people the chance to develop their job skills and improve their social and economic situation.”
The program also helped local job centres match the newly trained workers with employers who need them.
Adnan Dhaini, Employer (in Arabic):
“The best solution to end unemployment is acquiring new and better skills. Companies benefit from this idea.”
Now everyone in the village wants Hajer to work on their home, but usually the men stay outside. In traditional culture, the men of the house are never present when Hajer comes in to fix the wiring. It’s no problem for her.
Hajer Slim, Electrician (in Arabic):
“Because I fulfilled my dream, I encourage every girl to do whatever job she feels like doing.”
Hajer’s dreams don’t end here. The talented young electrician is preparing for another first: opening her own electrical appliance repair shop in southern Lebanon, the first run by a woman.