In October 2015, the ’Social Entrepreneurship’ program cluster at ActionAid ARI, launched a pilot program with young people in Tripoli, one of the most marginalized areas of Lebanon. ActionAid works in the towns of Bab-al-Tibbaneh and Jabal Mohsen where Sunni and Alawite Muslims have been clashing since the Lebanese civil war, with clashes intensified since the start of the conflict in Syria by their opposition or support of the Alawite-led Syrian government.
In Bab-al-Tibbaneh and Jabal Mohsen young people are discriminated when applying for jobs and sectarian lines divide the two towns. Up to 50% of residents in the area are unemployed, making half the population vulnerable to mobilization at times when clashes erupt. Bab-Al-Tebbaneh and Jabal Mohsen were prosperous regions until wide- scale flooding in the 1960s which caused the destruction of many of the town’s buildings; followed by years of civil war, most of the town’s main infrastructure is now either damaged or destroyed.
The social entrepreneurship program in Tripoli is seen as an important tool for social cohesion between the rival communities and an opportunity for young people to showcase to their peers that they can take the lead in solving pressing issues that are affecting the lives of many of its young people. The program was formed as a natural step from our existing youth in conflict work and from supporting women’s cooperatives in Lebanon.
The program selected two young men and two young women and provided them with a unique opportunity to move from being volunteers to business owners. Working hand in hand with our local partners to select the young people, an open call for applications for youth groups from the selected areas was put out, asking young people to submit ideas of a social business that helps them in personal development and serves to solve a critical issue in the community. Upon selection of the ideas with most social and economic potential, ARI and partners conducted personal interviews with the youth groups and selected a maximum of five groups per program. The groups were then supported to produce a six months project plan and budget.
Yasma & Basma
Marwa, Hasan and Mohammad are some of the young people who gained business skills and knowledge in how to transform youth unemployment and the feeling of exclusion and conflict. They all live In Bab-al-Tibbaneh and Jabal Mohsen and have recently started a social entrepreneurship business called Yasma & Basma which provides a service for international organizations to pack food parcels for less- advantaged families, sourcing locally from small businesses.
According to Marwa, 22, the lack of job opportunities and poverty is a major problem that affects the most disadvantaged families: “We want to help the vulnerable single mothers from Jabal and Tibbaneh who lost their husbands and sons during the war. They don’t have anyone to support them especially in the winter when the prices of vegetables increase and it’s hard for poor people to afford the price of simple food items” - says Marwa.
“There are many poor families and war victims in Jabal and Tebanneh and the local and international NGO’s don’t always reach them during the aid distribution” – Marwa explains.
The young people behind Yasma & Basma also want to promote social cohesion between the residents of Jabal Mehsen and Tebbaneh as well as providing new trading opportunities for local business. The Social Entrepreneurship cluster provided technical and financial support for the young people to start up their social business with an aim to employ youth from the two conflict areas who had to drop out of school who have to work unskilled positions to provide for their families.
“The youth here faces a lot of challenges due to the lack of opportunities and the sectarian and political tensions between Sunni and Alawites. That’s why the location of our storage store is in between Jabal and Tibbaneh because we want to strengthen the social bond between youth from both areas” – explains Hasan.
“We have made a register for those who are more in need and beside our main activity we want to share this information with everyone. It’s not only essential to deliver the aid but also to be aware where the most vulnerable are” – says Hasan.
The youth is mobilizing youth from both areas and focuses on a common goal by helping others. In the project they are used to work as a team across sectarian differences, as both Marwa and Mohammad are Muslims while Hasan is Alawite.
“The sectarian tensions are a huge problem in Lebanon. Many people think that we are different and that we can’t cooperate with different backgrounds. In Yasma & Basma we are proving the opposite that we all are facing the same challenges and need action. In the end of the day we are all human” – explains Hasan.
Coming from the Alawite minority in Lebanon Hasan really got conscious about the confusion and sectarian tension that can occur out of nothing. In Yasma & Basma Hasan dreams about mobilizing youth who have lost a loved one due to armed conflict between the rival towns to work toward a common goal.
“We all deserve the right to access proper food items and not to starve in silence. We dream about to help thousands of people. Our dream doesn’t stop here, we want to increase our business project and promote the idea in other areas, too” – says Hasan.
ActionAid ARI provided the team behind Yasma & Basma with the necessary technical and financial support and the team is now working with international organisations to provide food parcels for their delivery of aid. They have got a warehouse to store the food items and to pack the aid packages.
Through a local partner in Tripoli, Ruwwad Al-Tanmeya, the young people have also been set mentorship challenges to support their business implementation. The program has been developed hand in hand with the training methodology from the Global Platform. The SE trainer from Global Platform has been involved in every detail of the program; from selecting partners and youth trainees to developing the program and mentoring the youth.