Celebrating International MSME Day

Inspiring Success Stories from Women Entrepreneurs empowered through the Joint Programme ‘Rabeha’.

Micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) are the backbone of economies around the world. They account for more that 90% of businesses and play a vital role in driving employment and economic growth. In Egypt, there are 3.4 million MSMEs which contribute about 43% of the country’s GDP. Recognising the vital role MSMEs play in advancing the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development, the United Nations has designated 27 June as the International Day for MSMEs.

In celebration of the valuable contribution of MSMEs to socio-economic development in Egypt, we showcase the inspiring stories of three remarkable women entrepreneurs who represent only a few of Rabeha’s participants. Jackleen Maher,Aya Mohsen and Noha Ali have received support through the Joint Programme ‘Rabeha’ (‘Winner’ in Arabic), which aims to enhance women’s economic empowerment through training and business coaching. Through their MSMEs in various sectors, Jackleen, Aya and Noha have made a significant impact on local communities, showcasing the spirit of entrepreneurship and the transformative potential of small businesses. The “Rabeha” joint programme is implemented by UNIDO and UN Women in partnership with the National Council for Women (NCW), the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MoTI) and the Medium, Small and Micro Enterprises Development Agency (MSMEDA), with the generous support of Global Affairs Canada (GAC).

Jackleen Maher – Crafting a Sustainable Future

Jackleen Maher has embarked on a mission to empower rural women by establishing an association focused on developing handicrafts, particularly with palm leaves. Recognising the need to provide fair wages and a sustainable source of income for women and their families, she launched Jadila last year, a project that merges traditional crafts with modern designs.

Jackleen Maher with one of her palm products. Courtesy of Jackleen Maher.

Motivated by the abundance of palm trees in Fayoum Governorate, where she resides, Jackleen explains, “The craft of making products from palm waste has been a part of our heritage for generations. However, the existing products were outdated, and there was no recognised brand to compete in international markets. My vision was to integrate other handicrafts with palm products, collaborating with craftswomen and university graduates to create environmentally friendly, modern heritage products.”

Jackleen encountered several challenges along her entrepreneurial journey, from learning manufacturing processes and training craftswomen in new techniques to changing perceptions about the products. Marketing the products and establishing a presence in the market presented their own obstacles. However, Jackleen found a turning point in her entrepreneurial journey through the Rabeha programme, facilitated by the Micro, Small and Medium Entrepreneurship Development Agency (MSMEDA) in Fayoum.

“Rabeha provided the much-needed support, addressing critical aspects such as cost calculation, pricing, and creating a professional business model,” Jackleen expresses with gratitude. The Rabeha programme not only developed her strategic thinking skills but also enhanced the identity of Jadila’s products through design skills training.

Through the support of Rabeha, Jackleen created seven additional jobs, resulting in a total of 32 women employed by Jadila in the palm products sector. The programme has also fostered collaboration among Jadila’s team and fellow Rabeha trainees, resulting in numerous proposed ideas and projects for the future.

Aya Mohsen – Nurturing Creativity

Aya’s journey as an entrepreneur in the handicrafts sector began after visiting a handicraft exhibition at Fayoum University. Inspired by the creativity and uniqueness of the products, Aya envisioned her future in the industry. Her main motivation was to improve and develop her talent, increase her income, and gain more experience.

Coaching and technical training through the Rabeha programme enabled Aya to launch her business, Artie for Handicrafts. Initially thinking that Rabeha was solely a training program, Aya soon discovered its broader scope. “I learned a lot of things, such as thinking outside the box, logical thinking, starting up a project, and finding new markets,” she shares.

Aya Mohsen showcases one of her handicraft products. Photo: Courtesy of Aya Mohsen

Through entrepreneurship and technical skills training provided by the Rabeha programme, Aya overcame challenges related to product pricing and conducted a feasibility study. She gained skills in business planning, logical thinking and marketing to help communicate the value and benefits of her products to customers.

Aya’s project has created employment opportunities for two women, and she actively trains and coaches other women in her community. She aims to further establish her successful project by gaining quality standards and contributing to local handicraft clusters. Aya envisions providing high-level training courses and helping market the products of other women entrepreneurs.

Noha Ali –  Sustainable Education

 “You see that picture in front of you, yes, it is me. This is what the Rabeha programme did to me with the utmost smoothness, professionalism, and true belief  in me as a woman…We always know that the road to success is long and not easy, but on the way there was a programme that came to us riding its white horse to be the dream of every Egyptian woman who dreams of being a successful entrepreneur serving her small community” stated Noha Ali; Co-founder of “Bluemonkey kits” describing her experience with Rabeha Programme that helped her in transforming her project from an idea into a registered business.

Noha Ali displays her STEM educational kits for children at an exhibition. Photo: Courtesy of Noha Ali

Noha’s start-up offers STEM educational kits for children to promote sustainable education. Through Rabeha, she accessed new networks and gained deeper knowledge about market research, legal procedures, finance, and accounting. This resulted in the expansion of her business, registration of the company, enhancing her knowledge of the legal procedures and taxation system. Additionally, Noha learned how to develop a pitch deck to raise funds from potential investors.

Empowering Women Entrepreneurs for Sustainable and Inclusive Growth

Looking ahead, Jackleen, Aya and Noha aspire to achieve key milestones for their respective projects. Jackleen envisions showcasing her brand in international exhibitions, aiming to expand its reach and impact. Additionally, she is committed to providing employment opportunities to even more women in her community, further empowering them through economic participation. Aya, on the other hand, plans to further establish her own successful project with legal status and quality standards.  Noha, along with her team have a plan to grow their business through improving the website and focusing on introducing  their products to international markets.

These inspiring stories of Jackleen, Aya and Noha exemplify the strength and determination of women entrepreneurs. Their creativity, resilience, and the support they received from initiatives like the Rabeha programme demonstrate the transformative power of empowering women in MSMEs. As we celebrate MSME Day, let us recognise and support the achievements of women entrepreneurs and work towards creating an inclusive and thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem for all.

The Rabeha programme aims to support the economic empowerment of more than 6,300 women through increased access to employment and/or self-employment opportunities. ).  To date, Rabeha programme has successfully supported the access of 6,486 women entrepreneurs and job-seekers to a wide range of employability and business development services across Cairo, Giza, Beheira, Alexandria, Fayoum, Beni Sueif, Minya.