By Hind Abbas, Communications Assistant
From when she was only ten years old, Helalah knew what she wanted to do when she grew up. Today, despite the ongoing conflict in Yemen, she continues to hold on to her dreams and at twenty-three years of age, can attest to the value of hard work in achieving her goals.
Helalah lives with her husband and their two-year-old daughter in Yemen’s capital, Sana’a. “As a child I would spend hours in my room sewing dresses for my dolls. I’d wake up in the middle of the night when everybody was a sleep to finish sewing my dolls and would enjoy every second of it,” she proudly says.
When she was sixteen years old, Helalah left school and joined a tailoring institute in order to follow her passion. Soon her talent for tailoring was recognized. After just two years of study, Halalah became a teacher at the institute. She was such a good teacher that students would ask to be in her class when they registered for courses.
In 2015, when the conflict escalated in Yemen, Helalah says that everything started to collapse. The institute where Helalah worked was closed. For six months, Helalah and her family faced the threat of ever-increasing violence, food and fuel shortages, and a lack of opportunities to earn a living.
Fearing for their family, Helalah, together with her husband and young child, moved away from the city to Arhab, a village outside of Sana’a. While living in the village, she started sewing clothes for her family and friends. Other girls in the village eventually started approaching her to sew clothes for them and she agreed. She used the money from tailoring to support her family.
After one year, Helala and her family moved back to Sana’a. She went back to the tailoring institute that had reopened and resumed teaching her courses. It was during her time at the institute when she was informed about the Women Economic Empowerment program being implemented by CARE International. Feeling motivated to join the program, she submitted her application.
As a participant in the training program, Helalah was very excited. Aside from the new skills that she gained, she got further expertise and confidence to start her own business. The CARE program also supported her with a loan to facilitate her start-up.
With the loan, Helalah bought three sewing machines, installed a solar power system to provide electricity for her shop, and other equipment. Her father offered to rent her space in his basement. She later started using part of the space to provide lessons to other young girls interested in learning to sew.
Manal is wearing a dress made by her mom’s tailoring center. Photo: Abdulhakim Al-Ansi / CARE
Today, Helalah owns her own tailoring store and training institute. She sews wedding dresses, children’s dresses, casual dresses, and pajamas. As part of the training institute, she developed her own tailoring instruction manual meant to train aspiring seamstresses. She has also hired three women to help her as she has regular work and orders from her customers.
“This journey has taught me that when one has a dream, they must place their heart and energy into achieving the dream,” Helalah says. “I am very happy with what I have achieved and I will keep up the hard work to set a great example for my daughter. Thank you, CARE, for accompanying me in this journey.”
CARE’s Women Economic Empowerment program in Yemen aims to improve the living conditions, empower women through developing their enterprises, and enhance the skills and knowledge needed for self-employment and entrepreneurship. At least 50 women received training in business planning, microfinance, life skills, and marketing, and 14 of those received loans to start or expand their enterprises.
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