In this series, I interview the world's most inspirational women entrepreneurs. Today I had the pleasure of catching up with Ms. Sabah I. Al Haidoos, CEO at Silatech. Her company's mission is to empower women and young Arabs around the world by providing them with jobs and funding for their entrepreneurial endeavors.
Here is what she shared with me:
Vind: Please share your organization's backstory with us.
Al Haidoos: The idea to establish Silatech was born out of a vision of Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, that supporting the future of Arab youth supports all of the Arab society. In 2006, as a member in the High-Level Group and an ambassador in the UN Alliance of Civilizations, Her Highness invited the members in New York to discuss “expanding opportunities for Arab youth.” Following this meeting, a working team was formed including regional and international specialists.
This team collaborated with international organizations to conduct research and to identify priority sectors in the Arab world, which lead to launching the initiative. Silatech was formally launched at the Alliance of Civilizations Forum in January 2008 in Madrid, Spain, as an International Development organization that links Arab youth with employment and economic opportunities.
The United Nations Secretary-General then, Ban Ki-Moon announced his full support to Silatech. The name of the organization “Silatech” was inspired by Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser from the root Arabic word “Sila,” which means “connection. Silatechremains true to its name as it aims to be a point of contact between the youth and labor market and enterprises.
By end of 2017, Silatech succeeded in raising US$ 377 million in partner co-funding, creating a network of more than 300 partners and connecting more than 650,522 youth to job opportunities. Silatech currently has programs in 16 Arab countries, including Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Oman, Morocco, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, Yemen, Comoros, and a program for Syrian refugees in Turkey.
The organization works on achieving its mandate with the support of the State of Qatar. Although the initial idea was Arab youth and the region, the focus has shifted and expanded internationally.
Vind: Why is empowering women so important to your organization's mission?
Al Haidoos: Marginalization of women is one of the major global challenges that is relevant wherever you go and no matter what the challenge mix is current, the topic at hand being refugee crisis, conflict areas or simply job opportunities essentially women are always marginalized that is why we are taking this issue to heart.
We are focusing on equal opportunities for women, creating opportunities and improving their future. We design programs to empower women economically and involve them in the achievement of stability and development. Empowering women directly empowers future generations, they are the mothers, daughters and sisters and the future leaders. We cannot claim to work towards cultivating an enlightened society and breaking barriers of injustices and lack of opportunities without focusing on women. Half of the world’s population cannot be ignored and marginalized, there is no sense in that.
Vind: What types of jobs and entrepreneur opportunities is your organization creating for women?
-Developing the capacities of more than 1000 young women in the field of manufacturing and packaging food products, The program is characterized by its contribution in reducing the high unemployment rate in Gaza Strip and Jenin due to repeated war conditions.
-In collaboration with J. P. Morgan and Glowork, Silatech has established a career center to support the employment of women. The center provides women with career guidance, training, and employment services to harness their potential and benefit their society. Directly connecting 380 Women with employment opportunities and providing 877 Women with Vocational Training & Guidance Services.
-Co-Funding entrepreneurs to help them start, setup or expand their businesses. A teacher at a refugee camp trying to change the lives of the children at the camp by ensuring they get a good education in spite of the extreme conditions they live in. Or a young woman determined to create a sense of normalcy by opening a shop for accessories, makeup, and other women’s needs.
A young mother of two opening a grocery store to improve her family’s living conditions. A young woman opening a hair salon to support her parents and three siblings. A clothing store owned by a young woman supporting her family of five. Those are but a few of the many success stories of Silatech’s work with women.
Vind: If we’re sitting here a year from now celebrating what a great year it’s been for your organization, what will you have achieved?
Al Haidoos: We have more than 300 partners from all over the world, cooperation is the foundation of our success, and we look forward to establishing partnerships with more entities that believe in the potentials of youth in order to launch new projects and initiatives that provide sustainable employment opportunities for a greater number of youth.
Our organization, our partners and everyone who supports us: We have created a world of difference for our youth. This is only a starting point for a new phase that we hope will help us reach new horizons, as high as our aspirations, towards achieving a world that enables young people to work and participate in the development of their societies.
Achieve significant drops in unemployment rates, higher numbers in entrepreneurship, new programs combatting terrorism and marginalization of women and youth. We are optimistic about the future, the plans, the programs, our vision combined with our hard work strengthens our belief.
Vind: What is your best advice for female entrepreneurs wanting to make positive changes in the world?
- Don’t be afraid to fail and keep learning from your mistakes
- Don’t listen to the negative remarks
- Ask for help, get all the support you need
-Don’t compare your progress to anyone else, everyone has their own timeline
Lastly, don't ever give up, no dream is too big!