Nagham Al Banna is an alumna of TFL’s 10th cohort of fellows (2018–19).
Nagham works as a field manager for Rural Entrepreneurs for the Aley area. The project she is currently focused on aims to create income-generating activities and flexible work opportunities to support vulnerable (Lebanese and Syrian refugee) households and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in rural areas of the Shouf and Aley districts by providing training on sewing and selling PPE items and other fashionable and affordable fabric-made items.” Nagham is also working with Women Ascension to give trainings on soft skills (like leadership and emotional intelligence); training youth on entrepreneurship; and, having received a scholarship through TFL, pursuing a masters in rural community development at the American University of Beirut.
Can you describe your project? Its objectives? What are the ways in which these objectives are achieved? What have your outcomes been?
The project was inspired by the socioeconomic context imposed by both the pandemic and the economic crisis, which pushed thousands of households into poverty and forced hundreds of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to lay off work or shut down.
The project capitalizes on increased market demand for personal protective equipment (PPE) (such as masks) to create new income-generating activities and flexible work opportunities for vulnerable (Lebanese and Syrian refugee) households in rural areas and to support SMEs in related fields.
The project has two streams: (1) vulnerable household support, and (2) M/SMEs support. The first stream aims to support highly vulnerable households living in the target areas by training them on producing and selling PPEs and other fabric-made items. The training is structured so as to provide an array of technical and practical skills as well as basic business knowledge, with the aim of empowering households to secure livelihoods even after the project ends. The second stream provides aid to SMEs producing PPEs or other items related to pandemic management (such as sanitizers and sanitizing machines) through in-kind and technical support (such as consulting on how to build more sustainable business models and access new markets). The project also creates new partnerships and linkages between micro, small, and medium enterprises; households; and active local partners to ensure sustainability of project activities and impact.
What does this work look like? Where are you working? Who are your beneficiaries?
I am a field manager at Rural Entrepreneurs in Aley district. For this project, I coordinate stream (1) support in the area, oversee the implementation of the project, and ensure all preset criteria and outcome targets are met.
As mentioned earlier, the beneficiaries of stream (1) are vulnerable Lebanese and Syrian refugee households living in rural areas and looking to improve their standard of living through learning, working, and/or becoming entrepreneurs.
At Rural Entrepreneurs we also work with youth aspiring to become entrepreneurs or working on their startups.
What motivated you to start doing this work?
I’m passionate about women and youth empowerment and I’m pursuing a master’s degree in rural community development at AUB. The SEW project is helping me better understand the challenges rural people are facing and allowing me to be a part of potential solutions.
What keeps you motivated to do this work?
Seeing its impact on people’s lives, feeling how much they’re grateful for opportunities that help them improve their livelihoods, and feeling how much they’re willing to learn and work hard when they get such opportunities – this is what keeps me motivated.
We are living in extremely harsh economic conditions and I believe it’s our duty, as individuals and organizations, to support whoever is in need.
Do you see a link between your fellowship and what you’re doing now? If yes, can you describe it?
I can sum up my fellowship at Teach for Lebanon, in one word: IMPACT. Though I’m no longer working specifically with students, my journey of impact continues. I’ll always be equipped with the TFL values, and I will hold those values no matter where I go. I can’t help but recall the famous saying: “Once a TFLer, always a TFLer.”
Do you have anything to say to current fellows and/or to prospective fellows?
I believe we all want to be good humans but not every day do we get the chance to be able to empower, heal, and teach one another. I believe TFL gives one the platform to experience his/ her humanity; it gets one to know himself/herself better and explore his/her potential. I encourage TFL fellows to make the best out of this experience, which can turn their whole journey into a very special one, a long lasting journey that doesn’t end after the two-year fellowship. I would also like to encourage TFL fellows to deal with students as if they are what they ought to be until they become what they are capable of becoming.