“Go ahead and grab something to eat, “ I said as I pointed to the buffet packed with ladies standing in line after a long tiring day. She looked up at me and said, “You should let the gentleman go first”, as she pointed towards the perfume trainer standing in the reception area.
I thought to myself maybe it was out of her religious belief that she didn’t want the gentlemen standing between the ladies so I asked her, “ Why? Does it bother you that a man is present among the ladies, he will not stand in line amongst you until you have finished. Please go ahead.”
She smiled and said, “It is out of respect that a man should dine before the ladies. He must eat first”. I was surprised and explained that where I came from it was always ladies first. She continued and asked,“ In your culture who is the decision maker at home? ” I said, “Both, a couple normally would discuss their way through a topic.” She responded, “ Where I come from a man would seeks his wife’s opinion only out of respect, yet he might not take her thoughts into account and will do what he believed is right. The most important individual in our household is the man.” She had sparkles in her eyes, very proud of her culture and the beliefs that were instilled in her as she spoke about her husband and kids with great passion.
After all, I work in the field of empowering women, helping them express their opinion, helping them achieve economic empowerment or having their voice heard. Yet the woman I met at the souk seemed so happy and fulfilled with her life as she truly believed in it. It is maintaining ones cultural beliefs and values that would keep a person self fulfilled and motivate them to move forward as they remain in their comfort zone. The young lady was at the Hadafi Heritage workshop eager to learn a skill and she was helping her artisan mother who was weaving away on wicker palm strips to improve their family business and their skill set.
Yesterday, we were at a souk in Al Ain developing and training women artisan ladies who lived in that region of the U.A.E on 21st century skills like tailoring, designing household items and perfume making, whilst preserving the Emirati Heritage. We had items like palm wicker, sadou and tally that are hand-made by Emirati artisan woman and that will be incorporated into the final product produced at these workshops. These products will then be sold and marketed on the Potential Marketplace. The money made from the sales of the products will be given to the ladies.We have also trained a member of the souk on how to upload new products weekly on the platform to keep this initiative sustainable.
The ladies were split into batches as they learned the history of perfume making and the different fragrances that existed in today’s market. New designs and techniques were implemented in their household items as they explored how to innovate using different cost effective materials. They were taught from scratch how to tailor an abaya, which is the traditional Emirati clothing. The ladies were also exposed to a 30 minute engaging session on customer service.
The workshops will be a series of 4 different sessions where each lady would create a final product and gain education and mentorship support on various other topics like communication skills, pricing and the importance of women entrepreneurship.
Contributions from the private and public sectors like the contribution that PepsiCo has provided to make this initiative feasible at no cost to the ladies; are essential to help empower and support women while contributing to preserving the heritage of the country in our rapidly evolving technological world today. According to a research done by McKenzie, advancing and contributing to women development globally and helping reach gender parity can add $12T to global growth. Impacting women would impact households and generate a more educated second generation, which would lead to impacting communities as a whole.We need to put our efforts together in making a difference in today’s world and societies while contemplating on cultures, beliefs and values.