“These women feel more confident now. The apiary business allowed them to sustain themselves and meet the needs of their families."
Roudayna Hatoum, 41 years old and originally from Syria, has lived in Lebanon since 2009. Back in her homeland, she earned a certificate from the Feminist Art Institute before co-founding the Raschaya Environmental Congress Organization with her husband in Rashaya Al-Wadi, a rural area in Rashaya District in the Beqaa Governorate.
In Rashaya Al-Wadi, there is a dire need for sustainable development projects since inhabitants mostly rely on agriculture as a main source of income. In order to boost the entrepreneurial initiatives of rural women in her community, Roudayna, a certified trainer in the field of women’s development, established the first ever women-run cooperative apiary in Lebanon. Roudayna organized intensive courses and trained 118 women on beekeeping. She proudly says that every woman she has mentored currently owns a hive and financially benefits from it.
“These women feel more confident now. The apiary business allowed them to sustain themselves and meet the needs of their families,” shares Roudayna, adding that, “The husband of one of these women working in beekeeping even joined her apiary business. He uses his skills as a carpenter, to build beehives, while she manages the business, feeding the bees in winter and harvesting honey in summer.” With other women, Roudayna aims to expand her work by starting an aromatic plants cultivation business.
Even though there are more women among the vulnerable, the elderly, the unemployed, and among the food insecure, women are taking pivotal roles in leading Lebanon’s reform and the nourishment of the economy. Due to the recent economic plight and the national lockdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, many women in Lebanon found themselves forced to exit the labor market. A 25 percent contraction in real GDP from 2017 to 2020 is expected to have increased women’s unemployment rate from 14.3 percent before the crisis to 26 percent by September 2020. The number of jobs lost to women is estimated to be 106,750.
Roudayna reflects on the current crisis, saying, “Lately everything has become so high-priced; many cannot afford to buy olive oil as prices have been rising sharply. The least I can do is to continue coaching rural women on beekeeping but also on sewing, soap making, fruit milling, and making food items, as I have done for the last four years. At least they become self-reliant by making their own homemade products.”