TV contest awards innovative Libyan women entrepreneurs

May 12, 2023
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Twelve female entrepreneurs from across Libya received support through EU4PSL, an EU-funded project to foster private sector development and promote the economic empowerment of women and youth.


Raising kids’ interest in science and mathematics is never an easy task. Let alone if you do it within a strained and ailing education system. Nevertheless, this is the challenge that Aziza Adam, a 36-year-old Libyan woman, took upon herself three years ago.

After fleeing to Sirte following ISIS’ invasion of her hometown, the computer science graduate decided to move back to Sebha in southwestern Libya to establish her own STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) Academy.

“As years went by, I had started to witness a shift in children’s behaviour due to the difficult environment they had to grow up in. They were developing violent attitudes, neglecting school and education as a whole,” Aziza recounts, stressing that “this could have such a negative impact on their intellectual abilities and future prospects”.

To counter that trend, she decided to establish an informal educational club, inspired by her own passion for STEM which she developed as the founder of the Lybotics Citadel Team. “I always had a passion for technology and hands-on ways of learning. So, for me, being able to connect with like-minded people who believed in the power of STEM to develop intellectual and behavioural capacities, was a game changer,” the young woman remembers. “It gave me hope in the fact that people are still inspired and trying to change the future of Libya through practical solutions to our daily problems.”

Her initial idea in mind, she began applying to a variety of training programmes and competitions, including Raedat, an EU-funded contest implemented by Expertise France as part of the EU4PSL programme. “I knew about this programme that supports women and girls to develop their project and I decided to try my luck.”


Bringing innovative ideas to the public’s eye

Aziza’s project was one of the 12 women-led projects awarded with financial support, out of the 30 initial contestants. “These women come in front of a judging committee, who evaluates their businesses’ feasibility, market potential, and employability,” explains Sarah Belamin, Communication Officer for the EU4PSL project, who says that the competition, which is broadcasted on national television, does not only provide grant money, but also “excellent public visibility through weekly TV episodes”.  

In one of the episodes, Najeah Al-Tabawi poses in front of a screen showing a bowl of fresh vegetables, one of the contest’s promotional pictures, beaming with pride. This is the second time that the 27-year-old from Derna, a port city in eastern Libya, wins the competition’s grant for her project “Ideal weight”, an integrated centre providing services related to healthy nutrition, weight loss and sports.

Najeah came up with the idea to help people suffering from malnutrition in the midst of the protracted civil war in Libya. “Proper nutrition is key for every community to prosper and it should never be neglected,” the young woman asserts, noting that Ideal Weight is not only a “therapeutic” programme. “It is also an educational initiative that uses social media to spread awareness about healthy living in the community.”

In 2020, she also launched her own Youtube channel, where she broadcasts short interactive videos on topics as diverse as fasting, obesity, ancestral medical practices and hormonal changes. In two years, she has already garnered the interest of over 4,000 followers with whom she interacts on a daily basis.

Winning the Raedat competition helped her buy some medical equipment for the centre, while designing plans to open more branches across the country, “to reach even more people,” Najeah explains.

Since 2019, the EU4PSL programme has awarded 36 grants worth €120,000 to women entrepreneurs, contributing to the creation of over 90 jobs.

For Sarah Belamin, this competition is a great way to empower women from all Libyan regions and “help them find the resources and confidence that allow them to achieve their goals, overcome challenges, and increase their positive impact on the community.”

It comes fully in line with the overall objective of the EU4PSL project to support the private sector, which is the engine of economic growth, through enhancing the Libyan business environment and supporting entrepreneurs with access to business knowledge and finance,” she points out.


Women connecting for a brighter future

“Aside from the financial prize, what truly matters to me is the exposure I get to other pioneer women and the connections I can then create with them, for the brighter future of Libya,” Najeah explains.

Indeed, each episode presented the journeys of successful Libyan female entrepreneurs, followed by networking sessions to connect contestants with investors, future clients, and potential employees. “This allowed them to build a solid network and cultivate valuable connections,” stresses Sarah Belamin, who insists that “networking is key to opening doors for opportunities, support, knowledge and growth.”

She rejoices to be able to say that “many of the women entrepreneurs who participated in the competition formed beneficial collaborations and partnerships with one another or with other business stakeholders they met by being part of the EU4PSL community”.

Having run for the past two years, the Raedat contest has awarded business ideas covering topics as broad as organic foods, ceramics, waste management, photography services, dental prosthesis, and paramedical assistance.

Other winners of the Raedat award included Fatima, a jewelry creator who used the grant to open her own shop offering Libyan-branded jewelry, maintenance and repair services; Shaabana, who sells sewing supplies and delivers vocational training in the field of sewing and embroidery in the Atbiya Valley; and Mawada, who launched the very first rating application for rest houses and vacation homes around Libya.

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The Project

EU4PSL is a project financed by the European Union and implemented by Expertise France, which seeks to improve Libya’s business environment in order to generate economic growth and job opportunities in particular for the youth and women.

EU4PSL works with government authorities, civil society organisations and entrepreneurs. It paves the way for a country where the youth and women are able to create their own jobs and turn their dreams into businesses. EU4PSL project is part of European Union support to the private sector development in Libya, such as SLEIDSE project, which is also implemented by Expertise France.