Expanding a small business amid a conflict

Ayman Al-Akhali knew that getting a university degree from Taiz University, one of the best in Yemen, would give him more opportunities in life. He had high hopes. But war put paid to his plans.

Ayman chose Taiz University because he’d heard it would double his chances of getting a well-paid job once he completed his degree. He’d also heard that the best students were often recruited as teachers by the university. This was something that Ayman longed for.

But he graduated in 2015, just as the conflict in Yemen was escalating.

“As soon as I graduated from university, all work dried up. I traveled to many governorates looking for a job, but there was no way to find one,” he says. Ayman was out of work for three years.

But then he had an idea.

“When I was studying, I saw many stationery shops near the university, so I had the idea of opening one myself.” So, Ayman set to work and opened up a shop right in front of his old university.

Pay cuts for teachers

Refusing to let go of his academic dreams, Ayman also began teaching at the university, despite the low pay. Since the escalation of the conflict, teacher salaries have decreased substantially.

“Now, when you work as a teacher, you barely earn enough to pay for your meals and travel costs,” says Ayman, who is now 30 and a father of two.

As the wage at the university is only 8,000 Yemeni Rial (around USD 7) a week, the stationery shop remains his primary source of income.

Despite having two jobs, Ayman was still struggling to earn enough money to provide for his family. His stationery shop was simply too small to be profitable. He needed an investment to turn his business around.

A welcome boost

Through the Durable Solutions Project, run by the Giving Hope For Them (GHFT) and funded by the European Union, Ayman and other aspiring entrepreneurs were selected to receive a small grant. The boost enabled Ayman to buy more stationery to sell, as well as new equipment – including a colour printer.

“This came as a great relief to me as I was struggling to get more cash to invest in my business,” says Ayman. “I was so happy when I was selected for support, as a young man trying to support my family.”

As more and more people struggle to earn a living in Yemen due to the ravaging war, GHFT has been able to assist, with help from the European Union. This project in the Al Maqaterah district of Lahj governorate has supported 150 families by helping to strengthen their small businesses or projects.

“Now that my stationery shop is bigger, I can make more profit than before,” says Ayman.

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