“My husband was my first customer”, says Intisar, a new food entrepreneur selling pickles in Balqa governorate in Jordan, northwest of the capital Amman.
To get to where she is today, Intisar had to get past a few barriers that usually stop women from entering the business world in Jordan. The main constraint was the way the community criticizes her as a woman who leaves her house to earn a living. Another was her lack of knowledge in business management and fear of failure.
These barriers left Intisar feeling unproductive and disheartened. “I wanted to do something beneficial with my time”, says the 39-year-old mother. But that wasn't the only challenge, Intisar also needed to convince her husband Imad to agree to let her register for training in pickle making, business planning, and basic accounting.
Her husband had his reservations.
“I explained to him the project’s details, that I will be with other women who are also learning with me, and that if there was no benefit, I would drop out”, she says.
Implemented by the Jordanian Hashemite Fund for Human Development (JOHUD), the training Intisar heard about through a friend, targets women and youth living in the Jordan Valley to take part in the food processing value chain and become strong economic actors. The training, which is funded by MEDA’s Jordan Valley Links (JVL) Project and Global Affairs Canada, aims to provide women like Intisar and youth living in the Jordan valley with the required knowledge and skills to operate environmentally sustainable and gender equitable businesses, to increase their access to finance, and to gain the community’s support.
Intisar attended the first session and came back to her husband with excitement. “I told him that the project can help us register a business and he was immediately interested, seeing it was real and not just talk”, says Intisar.
Despite his initial reservations, Imad saw that Intisar was motivated and eager to learn and it wasn’t long before he gave her his support. “It is nice to see her filling her time, there is something she is busy with other than her usual housework. She is setting an example to our children”, says Imad, noting that Intisar’s project will also contribute to their family’s income.
“My relationship with Imad changed, our conversations have become deeper than what we will have for lunch or dinner. We started talking about the challenges I am facing, my finances, and my customers. There is something new to talk about”, says Intisar, adding that her first challenge was being able to find people who would be willing to buy her jars of pickles; which is the main issue women and youth face when entering the food processing sector in Jordan.
For Intisar, the community’s point of view towards her changed, “any woman who is working and doing something useful in her life is looked at differently. I don’t think that people look at a stay home mother the same way they do at a woman who earns a living; especially that I made something out of nothing”, says Intisar.
After registering as a business, Intisar used some of her income to buy cucumbers and pickle them to test what she learned during the training. Intisar had learned how to make pickles correctly after the technical training, having missed some steps when she used to make pickles using the recipe she learned from her mother. “I have learnt how to pasteurize the pickles and realized that using iodine free salt is better for pickling”, says Intisar, who sold her batch and made six dinners the first time. She currently sells her jars of pickles for 120 JOD (about $2.25 CAD).
Before starting her own business, Imad use to visit the market to buy their food alone.
Now they go together.
“The project helped me a lot, I started going out twice a week to attend sessions, and accompany my husband to buy jars and vegetables”, says Intisar.
“Now, I have a say in the household’s needs and my husband consults me.” The new entrepreneur now sells to schools, teachers, and shop owners who are willing to buy her pickles.
“My children come to me for pocket money”, says Intisar proudly, happy that she is reducing the burden on her husband in terms of finances. “My children started helping me to organize the vegetables. Our family has come closer together”, she added.
Intisar is among the more than 1,100 women and youth in Balqa who have registered and benefited from the sessions facilitated by MEDA JVL. Intisar is hoping to expand her business further and one day open a factory for pickling.
-- Dara Al Masri, Marketing & Communications Specialist, Jordan Valley Links