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A Christmas Fair to support Women Cooperatives

A Christmas Fair to support Women Cooperatives
“The fair was an excellent opportunity to promote our products and network with new people,” says Sawsan Saleh, head of the Sultan Yaacoub Cooperative in Beqaa El Gharbi, about the 2018 Christmas Fair. Having spent most of her life in Brazil, Sawsan was determined to come back and raise her three children in Lebanon but had to cope with the financial hardships that came with her decision. Today, she is able to support her family – alongside her husband – by selling frozen homemade Lebanese foods, such as Kebbe and Shish Barak.
Sawsan played an active part in the Christmas fair that was hosted in December 2018 by “Nature by Marc Beyrouthy.” She was one of 30 women who promoted their homemade products at the four-day fair.
Hosted by thirteen nationwide cooperatives, the fair was one of several events that helped the cooperatives and their women members access different markets, maximize opportunities, and leverage private sector marketing capacities.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in collaboration with the Ministry of Social Affairs and through funds from the Kingdom of the Netherlands, supported over 300 women in 42 cooperatives all over Lebanon in accessing new markets by optimizing their marketing skills within the framework of the Lebanon Host Communities Support Programme – LHSP. Through a partnership with the Rural Delights Cooperative, the women received on-going sup­port and took part in a series of special events to help boost their visibility.

 “Holding these events outside our village has introduced new people to traditional food,” said Majida Boutros, founding member of Qana Holy Family Cooperative, “and now, seven women working at the cooperative are making a decent living for their families. These women had no income before they joined us.”
For Majida, this wasn’t the first time she participated in a fair within the Qana Holy Family cooperative, selling delicious Saj wraps.

During the opening of the Christmas fair, the Netherlands Ambassador to Lebanon Mr. Jan Waltmans expressed how “wonderful it is to see that women are so encouraged to take initiative, cooperate, and sell the food they make.” He then announced that the Netherlands will contribute about 200 million euros to Lebanon in the next four years, half of which will go to Lebanese host communities, while the other half will go to Syrian and Palestinian refugees. “The Lebanese have been so hospitable,” he continued, “so our support helps reduce the pressure off Lebanese municipalities."

Ms. Claudine Aoun Roukouz, President of the National Commission, addressed the participants saying: “This activity contributes to achieving SDGs, by maintaining a healthy environment, creating proper work opportunities, and enabling women to effectively engage in economic development.”

Dr. Raghed Assi, UNDP’s Social and Local Development Programme Manager stated: “Agro-food processing cooperatives contribute to rural development and to improving livelihoods of the local communities, and particularly women’s.”

“Events like this fair have proved to significantly boost our sales,” Sawsan concluded, “and this is what encourages me to stay in Lebanon.”