Partners for Development [Archives:1998/05/Business & Economy]

February 2 1998

Help others to help themselves.  On February 12, 1998, a Refugee Bazaar will be held at the Partners for Development Community Center, on Al-Diary Street, between Al-Zubairy and Hadda.  From noon until 6pm, refugees from various countries will provide music, food, sweets, art, handicrafts and imports for purchase.  Entrance fee is YR100  and all proceeds will directly benefit refugees.  Please enjoy this inter cultural experience, with implementing partners of the UNHCR, and know that the benefits of your support will be appreciated by many.  Let this event encourage us all to exercise our potential to our utmost ability.
Among various groups, in Yemen, there seems to be a common misconception regarding refugees.  Refugees are often viewed as an inherent problem, a people whose presence serves only to annoy nationals and further decrease the quality of their living standards.
This, however, is not always the case and there are many notable individuals, who do not detract from Yemeni prosperity but, indeed, enhance and add to the beauty and prosperity  of the nation.  When human beings are given opportunity to exercise their potential  abilities, the results often surpass expectations.  Partners for Development has witnessed such instances, for example, in the Women’s Business-Fund Program.  The Woman’s Business-Fund Program grants small loans to female refugees, who seek to finance their families, by managing their own small businesses.  Thus far, Partners For Development has aided in the commencement of such projects as the production and sale of incense, oils, knitted handicrafts, wedding and floral arrangements, sweets, baskets and imported goods.
The women who operate these businesses are required to return to PAD, on a monthly basis, to repay a portion of their loan.  Admittedly, there was some apprehension, on the part of the organization: Would these women return with the payments or would the business cease and the initial investment disappear?  However, PAD has been repeatedly impressed by the diligence of these business women.  More than eighty percent of the women assisted have returned, on a regular basis, to make payment and inform the office of their success and challenges.  Collecting  funds has been much less of a challenge than might have been expected.
Conversely, the program seems to have helped some women to surprise themselves.  One refugee woman explained that she had been very depressed, after her husband married another woman and moved to another country, leaving her to care for the children on her own.  Some days, she said, she found it difficult to even leave her bed.  The small business loan, however, played a significant role in providing motivation.  With the money she received, she was able to buy raw materials and as a result she was able to provide for her children, as well as to realize the necessity of working faithfully every day.
Others have been able to emancipate themselves from unreasonably exploitative employers, who have subjected them to cruel conditions or who have paid them much less than was due.  They are able to use the loan to purchase materials that had once been provided by these employers; this way they are able to earn much more, doing the same work and under conditions that are more humane and conducive to caring for their children.  Still others have been able to expand their previous business and, thereby, increase their net income.  And others yet have involved other family members in their work, sharing the gift of purpose and spreading the principle of self-sufficiency.
It is as a result of such examples that a truism may be observed.  It is when individuals are given the opportunity and are encouraged – not discouraged – that greatness will occur.  When refugees are treated with respect and allowed dignity, they will become better equipped for the challenge of self-preservation, in this foreign land.  And it is only then that they will cease to be a burden to those for whom Yemen is home.
Carolyn D. Williams Program Coordinator, PAD