Yemen: New humanitarian project to help widows

Yemen Times
The project is called Milad Al-Amal Foundation Project for Humanitarian Services and helps women who cannot support themselves after their husbands have died or gone missing.
Samira Assabahi has devoted herself to this project in order to help serve these poor women forgotten by society.
Assabahi finished high school at Assabieen Martyrs Schools in 1996. After graduating, she got married. She lived with her husband for only one month when he abruptly died. Finding herself a widow, she decided to continue her studies and enrolled in the Faculty of Law, Sana'a University. She received her degree in 2002, after which she got a diploma from the Program of Qualifying Young Female Leaders and then started her project.

The Yemen Times talked with Samira Assabahi to find out more about the Milad Al-Amal Foundation Project in the following interview.

Q: How did the idea of the project come to your mind?

A: The idea came from witnessing directly the suffering of widows I know. I have met many widows who have a very difficult life after losing their supporters. One of the widows I know was forced out of her home because she could not pay the rent for four months. This woman lived in a tent until my relative and I helped her to pay the landlord and return to her rented house. Because I am a widow, I feel the suffering of widows and I have directly experienced what widows need.

The other thing is that governmental bodies or other organizations are only taking care of children and are ignoring the mothers. This is how I thought about establishing a project for widows.

Q: When did you establish the project and what are its aims?

A: I went to the Girls World Language Center to take some courses. I enrolled in the Qualifying Female Young Leaders Program and after two years of study I had to present a project in order to graduate. This is how the widow project got started. Because the project was new and worthwhile, I received YR 500,000 to launch it. So the project was established with this money in June 2008.

The project aims at helping widows and those who are like widows who have lost their husbands. It aims to support these women by training them to manage small-sized projects to live on. The project also provides financial support for them.

Q: Who are the beneficiaries?

A: The project is open to all women who have lost their support, like those whose husbands have died, divorced women, women whose husbands are imprisoned or lost, those who suffer from poverty without supporters and women who are supporters of children or support themselves.

Q: What are the achievements of the project up until now?

A: We have trained 30 women in sewing, preparing incense, educating them to read and write and how to prepare foods sold as goods. We have now 43 women who are being trained in sewing, home management, hairstyle techniques, memorizing the Holy Quran and literacy in general.

Q: Who supports this project? Where do the revenues come from?

A: The project is supporting itself. We take monthly fees from women who are not targeted by the project but come to learn. We take YR 200 a month for illiteracy courses, 500 for sewing courses and 200 for hairstyling lessons. We benefit from these fees to support widows and those who are like widows. So the revenues come from self support, the occasional donation and monthly fees from the members.

Q: Do you grant certificates to those who graduate?

A: Graduates are granted certificates upon completion of their specialized course. The period of the course lasts from one week to two months according the nature of the course itself. For example, learning how to prepare incense and home management courses take one week while sewing courses take more than two months. Sewing is divided into several levels. Level one is training on preparing school uniforms and children’s clothes, level two is women’s dresses, level three is for preparing jeans and trousers and the fourth level is sewing men’s jackets.

Q: What are your future aspirations to develop the project?

A: I wish I had money to loan women to set up their special projects. I hope also to create a sewing workshop, a sweets kitchen, a beauty salon and a computer center. I plan to have a show for our clothes products. I wish I could have an independently owned building for the project instead of renting. Finally, I hope I can establish a housing project for widows who cannot pay for an apartment or home of their own.

Q: Who works for your project?

A: The employees are all female and there are six of them: the manager, the training and programs' officer, the financial officer, the head of the voluntary committee, the head of the sponsorship committee and the officer of the widows sector. The whole number of the cadre and members of the project are 16, four men and 12 women. They are all contributing to the project's revenues.

Q: How do you pay the wages of the trainers?

A: We pay them from these donations, fees and from monthly contributions of the members.

Q: What are the problems facing the project?

A: We face several problems. The main one concerns me directly. Because my mobile number is listed on the brochures, I receive frequent calls of harassment. Another major problem facing the project is that there are visitors who come to the building of the project asking investigative questions and accuse us of doing bad things. Some women stopped coming to training because of rumors by others that the work of the project is missionary and has secrets behind attracting women, particularly widows.

Q: What is the message you want to convey through the Yemen Times?

A: I hope that all donors and institutions pay attention to the project by providing financial assistance because the project serves a neglected category of people who are in desperate need of support. I also hope that charities and the government will support this project.

I would like to inform people that the Milad Al-Amel Foundation Project for Humanitarian Services is a very humanitarian project and is not affiliated with any political entity. I hope through the media to shed lights on such projects. I call women not to indulge themselves in problems but to think on being productive and not needy.

13 July 2009

By Mahmoud Assamiee

Source: The Yemen Times