On Thursday, 28 March 2019, took place the ceremony of certificates distribution of the modular training program offered to adult women in the Institute of Management and Services (IMS), Maad-Byblos, a center of PRODES.

This Event was the conclusion of the 2-year project “Increase of Women’s Employment in the Tourism Sector in Rural Lebanon” co-financed by the Italian Fondazione Terzo Pilastro Internazionale (FTP), the Social Promotion Foundation and the Lebanese Association Promotion et Développement Social (PRODES).

The event started with a Culinary Contest with dishes prepared by the 30 participants to the winter modules. Each lady had to prepare a platter learnt during the courses of hospitality offered in 3 modules of 20 hours each. The jury, composed of Chef Claude Chahine, Chef Rita Abi Aad and Mrs. Marlene Salhab, evaluated the dishes on three principles: taste, decoration and overall outcome.

The ceremony started by the welcoming words of the director of IMS, Ms. Juliana Najem. She thank the two Foundations that have supported the project and the IMS Team for their engagement in delivering the training programs to the participants. She encouraged the women to open and/or expand their small businesses in the rural areas confirming that already we can see the impact of their efforts to boost the local economy of the villages.

The Coordinator of the Entrepreneurship Training, Mrs. Caroline Daher, gave a small summary of the activities carried out with the project. The first activity for the Orientation Campaign of the National Strategy of Rural Tourism was carried out in 13 schools, targeting around 941 students. 3 awareness campaigns were organised beside local stakeholders, reaching around 160 actors and professionals. The second activity consisted of delivering training programs for youth. During this 2 years project, 114 young women from different villages were able to acquire hospitality management skills, soft skills, develop more their personalities and gain self-confidence for their future life. The third activity of the project was to deliver training programs for adult women. During this 2 years project, 149 women participated in the different modular training programs elaborated by IMS. Entrepreneurship, Guesthouse Management, Culinary, Agro-food, Social Media modules were delivered. Till present, 40% of them had established their own business or started their own production from their home.

After this summary, the President of the Social Promotion Foundation, Mrs. Jumana Trad, expressed the satisfaction of the Foundation toward the IMS who has executed the project exceeding the expected results. She applauded the professionalism of the team and the impact that the project is already giving to improve the economy in the rural areas.

Then 58 women received their certificates of attendance to the training programs of the second year of the program. And then the three winning dishes of the culinary contest received prices.

After the ceremony, the 80 attendees were invited to the buffet prepared by the women.

Being that the delegate of the Social Promotion Foundation in Rome, Mrs. Rosella Miranda, came to attend the ceremony, the IMS Team prepared for her a visit to two microbusinesses launched by the women who have participated in the training programs at IMS.

The first visit was to Bejje to “AbiAssaf Guesthouse”. Mrs. Marie received the visitors with all her family. She explain how the old stone structure was empty and abandoned. When she started attending the trainings in IMS, she offered to use this space to deliver a training of Entrepreneurship for the women of Bejje. The IMS trainers delivered the 20 hour module to a group of 9 women in Bejje. It’s when Mrs. Marie got inspired to restore this old stone structure and launch a guesthouse. The trainers help her prepare the business plan and she was able to convince her family to invest in this project. Today, she may host 6 visitors and is planning to enlarge the actual structure. The family has improved their earnings and the children are getting involved in the project with a long term vision. At the end of the visit, Mrs. Abi Assaf offered fig jam and a straw basket prepared by her.

Then the team moved to Mayfouk, another village with a high tourism potential due to the presence of the Patriarchal Seat of the Maronites from 1200 – 1400. There, Ms. Leyla Hachach launched a guesthouse using an empty bedroom of her house. She received as well trainings in local guiding enabling her to explain about the cultural heritage of Mayfouk. She explain how she was resistant to engage herself in such project when there seem to be no hope for the villages. After several years of IMS Team encouraging Rural Tourism expansion in the area, she saw the increase of the tourism flux and decided to open a guesthouse. Since then, she receives constantly visitors.