Nadra was born in Lebanon as a Palestinian refugee more than 30 years ago. She has built a life outside the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli, where she attended a United Nations Relief and Works Agency School for Palestinian refugees. Married at just 13 years old, Nadra now has four children ranging in age from 6 to 16 years old.
Life for Nadra has been marked by the struggles of the displaced; in recent years those struggles have grown. As the sole breadwinner in her home and with four children to feed, Nadra was facing seemingly insurmountable obstacles to meeting her family’s basic needs. Nadra was receiving food aid from a local organization, Sanabel An-Nour, which suggested she join an entrepreneurial program they run in collaboration with the Near East Foundation (NEF). The Siraj Center at Sanabel An-Nour is one of four that NEF has established in Lebanon to help refugees and vulnerable Lebanese find jobs, start businesses, and improve their physical and emotional well-being.
Through the Siraj Center’s livelihoods and life skills trainings, Nadra built fundamental business skills related to market assessment, bookkeeping, and business feasibility that helped prepare her to open a small shop in her family’s home. She used a small start-up grant from NEF to stock the store with products such as household items, cleaning materials, juice, candy, and various snacks.
Several months after opening her shop, business is going well, thanks in part to her business philosophy.
There are two shops in my region that have the same products. Nevertheless, I have a lot of customers, and I became a competitor in the region for two reasons: the variety of goods and the competitive prices I offer.”
Nadra’s home-based business generates around 800 USD per month, enough to provide her and her children’s basic needs such as food and clothing. Nadra no longer needs to rely on food assistance from aid organizations and she is even able to help her parents with their household expenses.
Nadra is pleased that her children have seen her become more empowered. The experience has strengthened her confidence and stoked her entrepreneurial spirit: “Our life has changed permanently, and my young children witnessed the change in our way of life. I was able to prove that a woman can work and help her family out.”
NEF Siraj Centers help people move from reliance on aid to self-sufficiency through entrepreneurship, in a safe and dignified way. Since the launch of the first Siraj Center in 2015, NEF and its local partners have helped more than 3,400 people in Lebanon access services, gain new skills, and create sustainable livelihoods. More than three-quarters of participants report increased household income (77%) and improved self-confidence and agency (88%). NEF’s economic livelihoods work in Lebanon is currently funded by the U.S. Dept. of State Bureau of Population, Refugees, and the Elmer and Mamdouha Bobst Foundation.