Meet our Project Manager of the SHE SUCCEEDS, Sana!

For International Women’s Day, we talked to Sana Alawi, program manager of our SHE SUCCEEDS program in the Middle East, about gender equality and female entrepreneurship. Here’s what she had to tell us:

What does this year’s International Women’s Day slogan ‘Equal for Each’ mean for you and your work?

Women deserve equal rights, equal opportunities and equal life.

International Women’s Day is a reminder that women are not working for the benefit of men but rather that we are equal. We have our own needs, identity and dreams that need to be recognized and respected. However, equality is not just a one-day thing. International Women’s Day brings attention to gender equality, which it needs to be a continuous discussion throughout the year.

What are your main responsibilities working with the SHE SUCCEEDS program at Save the Children?

I am the Project Manager of the SHE SUCCEEDS program which empower young Palestinian female entrepreneurs in the agriculture sector. I oversee the strategic, technical and financial design of the project. I am also responsible for the overall project management cycle, which includes providing leadership to our local partners and day-to-day follow-up support on project activities.

I regularly engage with young women to gain their insight on the project to ensure we are working to transform their lives and their businesses.

What is the biggest issue facing young women in Palestine today?

The biggest issue is the discriminatory social norms and gender stereotypes that continue to push young women down and limit potential.

How she talks, what she wears, and how she behaves can be scrutinized in some communities and limit her opportunities for work. Some people only see women as being a wife and a mother, and do not consider women as valuable economic actors in their own right.

These gender inequalities can be internalized by women themselves – young and old. The SHE SUCCEEDS project focuses on engaging brothers, fathers and husbands, and works to change the mindset of women as well. Sometimes women can be harsh on other women and criticize, gossip and reinforce the discriminatory norms we are trying to change. Women need to be allies for each other and support and celebrate each other’s successes.

What barriers have you faced, as a woman, in becoming successful in your field? How did you overcome them?

I have been working in women’s economic empowerment programming for over five years. I have found that people might say they support gender equality but when it comes to actual programming and having difficult conversations about control, power and opportunities, people can become resistant and resort back to discriminatory behaviours.

To overcome this, I did a lot of reflecting to understand the root causes and the different perspectives people have on the issue. I have also done extensive research to collect information, tools and practical examples to demonstrate the positive effects of gender transformative programming. This has helped me change people’s perspectives and stand-up for young women and their economic empowerment in designing and implementing programs.

One of the things I am proudest of in my work is mentoring young women on their business development journey. I love being a mentor and pushing young to make their businesses competitive and viable. Over the years, some young women have reached out to share back their business successes and to thank me for my mentorship. Contributing to their economic empowerment is what empowers me in my work.

What’s the most important piece of advice you’d give to marginalized and vulnerable young women around the world who are starting their career?

Your life and your career is a journey. For any journey, you need a goal of where you want to go and you need to believe in yourself and the strengths you have to get there.

The journey takes time. There will likely be bumps, stops, and forks-in-the-road where you need to make hard decisions. Make sure you are making the decisions based on what is important for you. And, most importantly, make sure to enjoy the ride!

On International Women’s Day, what is the most important message you want to send out to young women?

Believe in yourself, push the limits and work hard. You can achieve your life goals.