UfM interviews Ms. Maria Helena de Felipe Lehtonen
UfM: How did the idea for “Young Women as Job Creators” arise?
Maria Helena de Felipe Lehtonen (MHF): The network of Businesswomen Associations from the Mediterranean of which the Association of Organisations of Mediterranean Businesswomen (AFAEMME) is made up had mentioned during some of AFAEMME’s annual meetings that there are too few young women in the business world and we considered that one of the causing factors was the lack of information and motivation of young women towards the idea of running their own business.
UfM: How did the opportunity for implementing this project come up?
MHF: Three years ago we decided at AFAEMME to give a series of practical seminars on women entrepreneurship in the Polytechnic University of Catalonia (UPC) and in the University of Cordoba in order to motivate young women to start-up a business. These seminars were a great success and we thought that it would be a good initiative to transfer this type of programmes to the Businesswomen Associations from our Mediterranean network in order to benefit young women from other countries.
We have then contacted Dr. Lino Cardarelli, Senior Deputy Secretary General of the Union for the Mediterranean, and Amb. Cecilia Attard-Pirotta, Deputy Secretary General of the Union for the Mediterranean, and proposed to implement such a programme in Jordan, Morocco and Palestine.
And thanks to the UfM’s positive feedback and support, this is how we are now completely involved in this new initiative, by working with enthusiasm on the development and the implementation of the “Young Women as Job Creators” project.
UfM: Why did you choose to implement the project in Jordan, Morocco and Palestine?
MHF: We thought that Ramallah, in Palestine, and Amman, in Jordan, would be environments that could function as guide to analyze how a programme of women entrepreneurship promotion works in the Arab world, since our intention is to replicate this project in other countries such as Lebanon or Egypt. In the case of Morocco, where the project will be implemented in Casablanca and Fez, we have worked in strong collaboration with the Association des Femmes Chefs d’Entreprise du Maroc (AFEM) in several international cooperation projects and previous business meetings and it has always been a fruitful experience; we are therefore convinced that also this time we will do a great work together.
UfM: What is your biggest wish with regard to this project?
MHF: We really hope that the project’s activities directly benefit young women in the involved countries since it is our biggest wish that they feel supported and that they acquire skills and knowledge which are useful to transfer their enormous potential and talent into women owned businesses which, at the same time, benefit other women by generating employment and indirectly increasing gender equality in the involved territories. This whish is the motor that drives this project forwards.