More than 40 women's cooperatives have formed small businesses across Lebanon to revitalize communities that were economically devastated by the 34-day conflict with Israel in 2006.
Focusing on the well-being of women and wider communities in areas of Lebanon where some live on incomes as low as US$2.40 per day, the 42 cooperatives were resourced and trained with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
The groups, comprising 500 women in north and south Lebanon, the Bekaa valley and the southern suburbs of the country's capital Beirut, make a range of jewelry, textile and food products.
In one case, UNDP supply of equipment to a coop in the southern city of Tyre, heavily affected by the 2006 conflict, raised revenue by 50-percent and helped to grow the workforce from 12 to 23 employees.
UNDP was the hand that helped us thrive in extremely difficult working conditions," said the leader of Deir Kanoun Ras El Ein coop, Da'ad Ismail, speaking of the new dough-mixer, cutter, oven and generator that increased production of jams, jellies and the speciality sesame bread, Mallet El Smeed.
UNDP's support during the last four years served not only to stimulate local economies, but also to shift traditional views on the role of women and work.
Zeinab Shamseddine, 23, was the only woman among 30 men on a mechanics and cellular telephone repair course run by UNDP in south Lebanon's Arabsalim village, where the economy had been set back by the 34-day conflict.
"I just wanted to realize my goals," said Shamseddine, who tripled her income to between US$300-600 per month and was able to offer stronger support to her family."I was shy at first but it didn't matter. I was driven and motivated and able to ignore the feeling of being the only girl in the class."
While coops have a long history in Lebanon, originating under legislation enacted in the 1940s, women-only groups have continued to suffer from lack of investment, low levels of literacy in rural areas and poor transportation.
Through UNDP support and training in conflict-affected areas of the country, 42 of these groups, as well as individuals like Shamseddine, are helping communities to rebuild their lives.