From Sweden to Morocco: Ayat & She Entrepreneurs
A native of Nablus, Ayat Atallah is a female entrepreneur who participated in both TYO’s Women’s Incubation Services for Entrepreneurs (WISE) Program and Fostering Women Entrepreneurs in Nablus (FWEN) programs. Ayat’s business, Takween, provides natural compost for farmers and homes, while also promoting environmental awareness in Palestine. In October 2013, Ayat traveled to Morocco to continue her participation in She Entrepreneurs- a one year program focused on developing female social entrepreneurs through mentoring and networking. This latest trip was a continuation of Ayat's travels to Sweden earlier this year with the program. Below, Ayat tells us about some of her experiences in Morocco, and how it will shape her both personally and professionally.
Where did you go, and what was the purpose of your trip?
I traveled to Rabat, Morocco for the second module of "She Entrepreneurs". She Entrepreneurs is a one-year program for emerging social entrepreneurs in the Middle East, North Africa, and Sweden that aims to give participants tools for sustainable change, while also creating a network for women leaders. During each program year, She Entrepreneurs hosts two events for the social entrepreneurs in that cohort-one in Sweden, and the other in the MENA region. After we all traveled to Sweden in April 2013, this was our second-and final official gathering together.
What was the focus of the gathering?
The event is focused on social entrepreneurship, and helping us find innovative solutions to our challenges as young women in diverse, sometimes difficult environments running businesses. Specifically, we worked in groups to discuss how we can measure the social impact of our companies. We also visited local civil society organizations to hear case studies of successful social entrepreneurs in Morocco- like women's craft cooperatives, and recycling projects. There was an opportunity to watch a performance called "Seven" from the National Swedish Touring Theater that showcased seven different stories of real-life women from all over the world who brought sustainable change to their communities. Lastly, we also were able to tour some of Morocco and experience life there- I loved visiting the ocean!
What was an inspiring moment for you while there?
In my program, there is a young woman from Morocco who studied in engineering, but is now making handmade purses from plastic bags that are discarded around her village. She started her venture alone, but is now able to employ many women from her town and develop strong partnerships. It is powerful to see how one person can bring much change to her community- and also deeply benefit the environment. Sharing stories like these brings me encouragement and motivation- but also shows me the importance of following one's passion, and seeing the great impact that it can bring.
How will this shape both you, and your business?
In the six months since our group met last time in Sweden, there's been a lot of changes in both our personal and professional lives- and this second gathering allowed us to give each other feedback on our businesses, improve our ideas to help us have more of a social impact, and strengthen our network as women leaders. I learned that I don't always have to be a specialist in a field to pursue my dreams- for instance, I'm an engineer- but I also want to incorporate some handicraft work into my business. Just because that's not my training doesn't mean that I can't do it- my passion will encourage me.
By the end of our week in Morocco, we were full of emotions about saying goodbye- in just a year, we'd gone from just a group of entrepreneurs to a real family of women leading change in our societies.