They clicked on a link. You won’t believe what happened next.

In Lebanon, women have regained hope and confidence at a digital skills training offered by the World Food Programme.

Edward Johnson
Mar 31, 2019 · 6 min read
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WFP’s advanced digital skills training programme in Lebanon is funded by Germany and delivered at the American University of Beirut. Photo: WFP/Edward Johnson

Since 2016, the World Food Programme (WFP) has run a digital skills programme in Lebanon. It is providing Syrian and Lebanese youth with the skills they need to get jobs and start businesses. Here’s the feedback we received from six participants, new women in tech.

Radiya

“When I got to Lebanon, all I wanted was a job so I could provide my children with an education. I was training to be a teacher in Idlib but I left that all behind when I fled. My husband found work teaching Arabic to foreigners but it was harder for me, so I spent time with my two kids and often took them to a community centre so they could be around other children.

Anxiety and panic was consuming me, but luckily that’s when I heard about the training programme. At that time, I didn’t even know what a USB was. Everything happened quite fast — I enrolled, took a test, and by some grace I passed it. I was calling every day to ask when I can start learning — it was a huge opportunity that I didn’t want to miss.

The course was not easy. It was overwhelming, studying and raising kids at the same time. But, I persevered for my kids, and I even got an ‘exceptional’ commendation from the instructor. Look at me now — it’s been a long time since I’ve been this happy.”

Sahar

“To say life was tough is an understatement. I’d given up on my education in Damascus, I had major pregnancy complications, my father died and I couldn’t travel to the funeral. I was really suffering but my mother motivated me find a course and continue my education. She told me its what my father would have wanted.

Two years later, I have earned two digital skills certificates. I knew there was a capable student inside me — I just needed to find her. Now I feel like I’ve removed the dust from my brain.

Everyone was so supportive; my husband found extra work to buy me a laptop and my sister babysat my children while I learned coding from a textbook. The next step is to use these certificates to find a job and pay back my husband for the laptop. I want to feel like I really earned it myself.

I’m stronger now I have these new skills. The course has turned my life around and I found new motivation. People laugh when I say I have a passion for Excel, but it’s true! My father would be so proud.”

Alaa

“I had no value, no hopes, no dreams. I would sit at home like a piece of furniture.

It was my neighbours who told me about the programme. They encouraged me to get out of the house and apply. On campus, I found another world that I didn’t know existed. I realised there that I had to get my act together to be part of that world. That gave me a lease of life I cannot fully explain — I went from doing nothing to devouring books, studying everything the teachers gave us, from English to Excel.

It’s funny — I remember at the beginning of the course, I would sit at the back, scared of the embarrassment when they discovered I couldn’t even turn on a laptop. Now you can’t separate me from my laptop.

I quickly realised that I needed to leave my worries outside when I’d walk through the doors of the training centre. Everyone’s smiles and encouragement reminded that humanity still exists. The centre is where I re-found humanity, dignity and made dreams again.

Now I’m on path going somewhere. My life has changed and I have this new feeling that’s called confidence. I’m going to open a small online business selling my handmade dresses.

The world is waiting for me and I cannot say thank you enough.

Reem

“The war wiped away my dreams and I was desperate for a way to pick up my life. I felt that my time was slipping away.

But that was a year ago. Now I’m holding on to my certificates with all my strength. The web design course was fascinating, but learning English was the most useful part. It’s the language of the world and because I can speak it, I’ve already found informal work on an exciting new product that will soon be on the market. But it’s top secret for now!

I learned a lot of social skills during the course too. Last week I went on a trip to the mountains with my new classmates. I never thought that would happen.

My next steps are to own and manage a beauty parlour back home. I’m sure I can do it and I’ll have plenty of customers when they see my new website. I’ll also run the business with Excel. I’ll be a professional, just watch.”

Nisrine

“I was studying social sciences at university but because the fees were high and my husband lost his job, I had to leave. My parents are helping to raise my two boys but they also have their own bills to pay.

I read about the programme on Facebook one day. I found a link to apply and my life changed as soon as I clicked. The course has given me computing skills that I’m teaching my kids now.

I’ve completed the first level course now but I’m not giving up. There’s an advanced one starting soon and I’m confident that then I’ll find a job in no time.”

Nour

“Being a refugee can be humiliating. I used to feel overwhelmed with guilt and embarrassment that I couldn’t support my children. I had almost given up.

One day, I found a poster on a wall advertising the programme. On top of everything else I had to manage — being a teacher for my kids, a cook, a nurse for them — how could I manage studying at the same time?

Well, I saw a chance to get out of the cycle, and I took the risk.

Look at me now — I graduated with a distinction and I won a certificate of achievement when I completed the advanced class on web development. My next step is to a new project related to beauty products and wellness. That way I can use my computing skills and my life experience as a mother.

The most important thing about the programme is that it’s made me believe in myself. I went from devastation to blessings and if I can do this, anyone can! When life gives you an opportunity, embrace it and keep driving yourself forwards.”

Together with local partner Kayany and the American University of Beirut, the programme aims to equip vulnerable Syrian and Lebanese youth with transferable skills for the digital economy. The German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) funds the programme which includes:

  • Basic digital skills such as file management, internet and email applications, data processing and document creation
  • Advanced digital skills such as web design, informatics and data science foundations
  • English language skills
  • Soft skills for free-lancing and entrepreneurship such as coding, web development and data cleaning

Find out about WFP’s work in Lebanon.

World Food Programme Insight

Insight by The World Food Programme

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