Ali – Supporting Women Entrepreneurs to Succeed through Access to Finance

Wednesday, 08 December, 2021

Ali Abutaleb is the Executive Director of the Yemen Microfinance Network (YMN), a financial industry and development sector expert, and a lead promoter of Social Performance Management and the impact of microfinance services.

YMN actively facilitate access to financial services across the country, with a great focus on youth and women; being named the most accomplished and established microfinance network in the Middle East and Northern Africa region. 

Since late 2017, YMN has implemented microfinance initiatives for UNDP’s Emergency Crisis Response Project, with funding from the World Bank and support from the Social Fund for Development, helping to restore thousands of conflict-affected small and micro businesses in Yemen. Over 2,600 women owned enterprises and income-generating activities but were partially or fully lost or damaged directly or indirectly by the ongoing conflict.

“Many of these women owned projects are the only source of income for their families. We were able to give these women the chance to regain their income and ability to provide for their families and dependents again,” says Ali. 

So far, the impact of this initiative has been witnessed on the social and economic level for nearly 5,500 Yemenis across the 10 governorates. Women were supported to get back on their feet and restore a sense of stability for themselves and their families, taking their children back to school, and accessing life-saving medical treatment.

“An example is the case of Fadwa in Lahj, who worked as a seamstress sewing traditional clothing for men. When the conflict erupted, she was forced to flee, and upon her return, her sewing machines and fabrics were completely lost. Through this initiative, Fadwa was able to regain her ability to work by purchasing fabrics and sewing items. She was able to restore her business and it boomed once again, thus regaining a steady income which enabled her to get an eye treatment she desperately needed,” Ali describes.

According to Ali, women in this project so far represent 46 per cent of all project participants and have a wide range of projects and businesses in several sectors. As a result, there are 284 new direct employment opportunities for women and over 9000 women who have been indirectly supported through improved household income .

But despite these success stories, many challenges and difficulties still face women in Yemen, especially economically.

“From our own experience in the microfinance sector, as well as financial inclusion field in Yemen and neighboring countries, we can see that financial illiteracy remains one of the biggest challenges facing Yemenis, especially Yemeni women. It remains a big barrier to financial inclusion and economic empowerment,” explains Ali.

At YMN, Ali made sure to take on at least 40 to 60 per cent women clients and encourages them to develop and connect with additional services that can help women entrepreneurs succeed.

“I look forward to a future where Yemeni women take a leading role in creating an environment that provides a better quality of life and improved economic opportunities and resilience,” concludes Ali.