Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Women of the Gulf showcase their achievements

As we prepare for the first event of the US-Saudi Women's Forum on Social Entrepreneurship, which will occur in Jeddah this spring, we are excited to hear about an exhibition being organized by the Jeddah-based Al-Eman Association. 

The First Gulf Women Exhibition will showcase the experiences and achievements of women around the Gulf in various fields.  There will be specialized sections on:  businesswomen, higher education, and health care.  

As we are all keenly aware, the image of women in the Gulf often includes words like: "oppressed" "uneducated" "sheltered".  This exhibition will show other women of the Gulf, and the rest of the world, that there are women doing incredible work all over the Gulf.  Women in business, health care, education, and finance are having positive impacts on their communities, while respecting and enhancing their traditional cultures.  

Additionally, the event will have a section for "housewives" where home-based businesses will be highlighted as a way to fight the issue of unemployment among women.  Jawhara Al-Anqri, head of the Al-Eman Association stated that this section was created "... because there are women in the Kingdom who have started their own business in order to fight the issue of unemployment."   
Events such as this one have the unique opportunity to shed light on the often overlooked achievements and advances being made by bright and motivated women throughout the Gulf region.

Clearly, the types of ideas that are necessary for successful Social Enterprise, already exist among women in the Gulf.  We hope that the US-Saudi Women's Forum on Social Entrepreneurship will be able to leverage this existing interest and activity, and highlight the various ways Social Enterprise could work in the Gulf- creating employment opportunities and improving local communities within the traditions and customs of the local culture. 

(photo courtesy of Lateefa's photostream) 

Monday, February 16, 2009

College women serve Jeddah

Since the spring semester of 2007, students at Dar Al Hekma College (an all-girls college in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia) have given 14,000 hours of their time to serving their community.  

The "Social Responsibility Unit" at Dar Al Hekma is the unit through which students complete the 100 hours of community service required for graduation.  

Students have thus far spent their hours visiting, planning, and designing activities at various organizations throughout Jeddah, as well as fundraising activities, and advocacy work for non-profits. 

While these activities are not necessarily "social entrepreneurship", it is clear that:

1)  Interest in community service and responsibility exists throughout the Kingdom, and especially among the youth. This interest can be taken a step further (into sustainable enterprise) if students are given the necessary tools to turn community responsibility into a sustainable business.

2)  Saudi Arabia, and Islam overall, have a deep-rooted tradition in community service.  The religious and cultural focus of Islam on charity and giving to the community is an ideal that can, and should, be made sustainable.  

Community responsibility should not be on our minds only a few times per year- it should be a consistent part of our daily lives. 

(photo courtesy of Emily Tavoulareas)

Friday, February 13, 2009

High school students turn bottles into loans

Webber Academy, a Canadian Prep-School, is instilling a sense of social responsibility and enterprise in its students through a 12th-grade program called the "Legacy Project".

The program takes funds raised by the school's recycling program and puts the money toward micro-credit loans for people struggling in developing economies. The Legacy Project makes loans through KIVA- a US non-profit organization that operates a person-to-person micro-lending website, allowing individuals to lend directly to entrepreneurs throughout the developing world. Through this program, the Legacy Project has loaned money to entrepreneurs around the world, including: Cambodia, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Pakistan and Tajikistan.

According to the Calgary Herald, "the student's goal is to have $10,000 in their loan portfolio by the end of the year."

While it is an optional program, the approximately 15 students who are directly involved with the Legacy Project are completely energized by their tangible results, and have attained support from the entire school community- including elementary students.

The project's co-president, Elizabeth Huffaker is pleased by the "...tangible results. You can see a difference from small actions like recycling bottles or cans." She also highlighted the simplicity of the program, stressing that:

especially for places that already have recycling programs set up,
it's really simple... it's not that big a step to expand to not only recycling bottles, but taking the money you make and putting it into loans.

Bravo, Webber Academy. Not only are your students learning life-long skills, they are also learning that a small effort and some creative thinking can have big results.

(quotes from Calgary Herald)
(photo via Alex Kehr)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Social Responsibility in the Kingdom

As the U.S.-Saudi Women’s Forum on Social Entrepreneurship takes shape, we are very excited to hear that the Saudi Ministry of Social Affairs has made "Social Responsibility" a national priority.

In case you have not yet heard, the first three days of February 2009, the first ever Forum on "Social Responsibility and the Participation of Public and Private Sectors" was held in Riyadh's Al-Faisaliah Hotel.

The Forum highlighted the importance of partnership between the public and private sectors, and their roles in promoting community responsibility. The Ministry of Social Affairs is aiming to create and promote a culture of social responsibility in Saudi Arabia.

Among the over 400 participants, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah was in attendance, and called for launching collaborative social projects with a focus on the reintegration of the "underprivileged section of society".  Additionally, Minister of Social Affairs Yusuf Al-Othaimin stated that one of the aims of the Forum is the "building of dialogues between the public and private sectors and encouragement of media to support social responsibility programs”.

We are pleased to be promoting social responsibility in the Kingdom at a time that the country is seeking to increase awareness about social responsibility and identify community needs.

Stay with us and we'll keep you informed!

(photo from Mohammad Al-Rehaili's photostream)


Welcome to the US-Saudi Women's Forum on Social Entrepreneurship blog!

While we will keep you informed about activities of the Forum as the program unfolds in its pilot year, our blog will keep you informed about social enterpreneurship throughout Saudi Arabia and the broader Middle East region.

(photo from Mohammad Al-Rehaili's photostream)