Salma has defied the odds. She is just 24 years old and runs a successful business in Yemen – a nation dominated by men where independence is a goal far too few women are able to attain. Salma shares how her progressive upbringing and a little training from CARE have helped her break cultural boundaries.
“In my country, women are traditionally expected to be guided by a male figure – either their father, brother or husband… We were the exception.
“My father encouraged my sister and me to always pursue our goals and challenge existing biases in our society.
“As a schoolgirl, I was interested in being a part of social and youth activities and I received my father’s full support. I joined university and successfully graduated with a bachelor’s degree in computer sciences.”
Salma quickly found work in her field, but by 2015, Yemen’s economy had destabilised to the point where many companies, including the one employing Salma, were forced to close.
“I started seeking new options. It is very difficult to get employment in Yemen these days and I felt that it would be better to start my own business. I also wanted to do something that would not only provide me with a stable income but would also define me and be in line with my beliefs.
“I thought of opening a coffee shop for women in the local market. I had observed that when women go shopping they would have a hard time finding a decent place to rest, get refreshed or even use a clean rest room. An affordable coffee shop in the middle of the market would solve this problem. I applied for a training opportunity with CARE’s economic empowerment project as a first step in learning how to start my business. I was very fortunate to be accepted and to receive the start-up loan for my business.”
Salma’s coffee shop, which she named Happiness Café, is now thriving, and she has a daily income to help support her family. It has also fulfilled her hopes of creating a safe, supportive environment for women to meet. Many women visit to socialise there, and she even hosts meetings for women entrepreneurs where they can share ideas and learn from other inspiring women.
“I am so happy that I have gotten this opportunity, and that I am now able to contribute to my community.”