The path to success is often confounding, but when you look to three Jordanian women, you see the faces of triumph. W Amman recently hosted the latest installment of What She Said, hosted by Suhad Shtayyeh, and featuring the extraordinary stories of Fairuz Taqi-Eddin, Farah Hourani, and Reem Habayeb, three entrepreneurial activists using their success to enable the women around them to reshape the future. The group hit the stage to share their life-changing experiences, and how they became some of the boldest names in the worlds of Middle Eastern design and activism.
Empower the Women Around You
Suhad Shtayyeh opened the conversation unpacking the word empowerment. The term is thrown around a lot but it’s more than feel-good language. “It’s a tool to allow you to succeed,” said Suhad. “And when you succeed, you empower others along the way.” It’s with this in mind that she began the conversation, asking the panel of entrepreneurs about the ways they overcame career obstacles, and how they capitalized on success to pay it forward. Fairuz Taqi-Eddin, Farah Hourani, and Reem Habayeb explained how hiring disadvantaged women, sourcing materials locally, and designing workplace policies that favor women weren’t just good business practices, but also investments in the social fabric of Jordan.
“When you succeed, you empower others along the way.” Suhad Shtayyeh
Fairuz Taqi-Eddin recalled how Jordan River Foundation teamed up with IKEA’s social entrepreneurship initiative to give female artisans access to global markets to sell local goods, like carpets and woven baskets. So far, the partnership has created 150 full-time jobs for both Jordanians and Syrian refugees. “You’re doing business, but you’re doing good at the same time,” says Fairuz.
She remembers going to pitch to the CEO of IKEA, thinking to herself, “We just need to go for it. We can be nervous later.” Fairuz was confident that JRF was best positioned to create dignified jobs for vulnerable women in Jordan while also maintaining the quality of design. This conviction was the bedrock in which she was able to sell her vision without hesitation.
“You’re doing business, but you’re doing good at the same time” Fairuz Taqi-Eddin
Take Advantage of Your Unique Place
Farah Hourani says it’s not always easy to be a designer in Jordan, especially when it comes to receiving materials from international suppliers. She does, however, remind the audience to look for the advantages of sourcing products from your local areas. With local cost efficiencies, Farah was able to produce designs using innovative techniques, like laser cutting, a method that would have been prohibitively expensive in fashion capitals abroad like Paris or London.
Be Flexible and Stay Agile with Your Ideas
Reem Habayeb, co-founder of Silsal Design House, recalls the early struggles of turning artisanal designs into a sustainable business. “If you want to go global,” she says, “you might have to tweak your business model. It’s important to get out of your comfort zone. Transparency and trust is key.” Reem also highlighted Silsal Design House’s commitment to policies like flextime for their workers. It’s not simply an HR perk but, rather, a tangible asset in helping women shape the lives they choose for themselves.
“It’s important to get out of your comfort zone.” Reem Habayeb
Don’t Wait Around, The Right Time is Now
Farah Hourani gave a fitting conclusion to the evening with her final takeaway: you must overcome doubts to turn your dreams into realities. We may think we are too young and inexperienced, or perhaps too old and the time has passed. But the truth is that there is never a perfect time to pursue a passion—you just have to go for it. “Do what you love,” says Farah. “You’re going to try, you’re going to fail, you’ll succeed, then fail again a year later. But it’s possible and you can do it.”
About the Panelist