Lauren Faress is a Lebanese entrepreneur who is growing her food business through the USAID-funded Women’s Global Development Prosperity (W-GDP): Expanding Women’s Labor Force in Lebanon project, implemented by Corus organization Lutheran World Relief. (Joao Sousa for LWR)

Inclusion in Economic and Livelihoods Programming: Women's Entrepreneurship in Lebanon

  • Robin Schmid
  • Mar 3, 2023

Sustainable market systems development is rooted in its ability to achieve broad-based, inclusive economic growth. However, many markets are deeply inequitable and exclude women, older people, youth, persons with disabilities and other marginalized groups.

To address the importance of gender equality and social inclusion in market systems development, Corus organization Lutheran World Relief joined USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance on a recent Marketlink's webinar, Inclusion in Economic and Livelihoods Programming: Lessons from Lebanon and Around the Word. The panel included Caroline Batarekh, our Lebanon Acting Programs Director, and Eva Christensen, our Senior Technical Advisor for Resilience.

The presentation discussed challenges, opportunities and good practices for centering social inclusion in livelihoods programming, including lessons from Lutheran World Relief’s efforts to empower women in Lebanon.

Women’s Economic Empowerment in Lebanon

In the wake of the Beirut port explosion, COVID-19 fallout and a crippling financial crisis, Lebanese women are twice as likely as men to be unemployed, work in unfavorable conditions and receive lower pay. In response to these entrenched inequities, Lutheran World Relief implements two concurrent projects in Lebanon that champion gender and social inclusion.

Our USAID-funded Women’s Global Development Prosperity (W-GDP): Expanding Women’s Labor Force in Lebanon project supports women entrepreneurs as catalysts for positive change in business as well as in their families and communities, with gender-appropriate and gender-specific interventions. The project provides a tailored, digitized, university-accredited certification to the women led-enterprises of USAID’s private sector development programs in Lebanon. Many of these women may not have access to higher education or other formal certification programs to demonstrate their knowledge and gain external validation for their businesses in the market.

Building upon these efforts, our Business Recovery Services and Fund project, funded by Kerk In Actie (KIA), shares the same aims of empowering Lebanese women by promoting an enabling environment for women's entrepreneurship and improving the capabilities and resiliency of women-led enterprises. By complementing W-GDP programming, the project can affect rapid business growth with an already-trained cadre of women entrepreneurs, providing them with access to much-needed business grants and loans, linkages to additional training, community activities and social cohesion resources for long-term impact.

Between the two projects, women have access to a complete pathway for enterprise development and operation designed for sustainability.

A Lebanese women entrepreneur works in her kitchen

Amal al Hilabi, an entrepreneur in our W-GDP project, wanted to support other women through her enterprise. Now, her kitchen features eight women who cannot make frozen kibbeh fast enough to keep stores stocked. (Joao Souza for LWR)

The Importance of Inclusion

Centering inclusion in economic and livelihoods programming and considering patterns of marginalization is critical to achieving economic development. By understanding the barriers that people face and improving meaningful participation in decision-making, we can be responsive to people’s diverse needs.

In the case of our programming in Lebanon, livelihoods activities were informed by assessing the constraints and opportunities for woman entrepreneurs. In carrying out a participatory study, we were able to contextualize our program approach to better target and address existing needs and advance deliberate inclusion. Such inclusive programming includes:

  • A digitized business entrepreneurship certification program designed specifically for gender-informed barriers (that considers differing levels of education, literacy, ability, economics, etc.) to help women entrepreneurs become more confident and gain the necessary education to sustainably grow their businesses
  • Online learning sessions that enable participation to be arranged around work and family commitments
  • Lessons that are produced in both audio and visual formats, with the ability to pivot as needed to solely audio or visual delivery
  • Mentorship support and peer-to-peer support groups that have online options enabling women entrepreneurs to strengthen their business networks and resources


Lutheran World Relief staff member supports a Lebanese woman entrepreneur access online business courses

Lutheran World Relief staff member Judy Yazbeck helps project participant Sultana Abrach connect to the internet and navigate a computer, which Sultana's never done before. Sultana will use the computer to access business courses.

Always Learning

We are always learning and reflecting about how we can be intentional with gender equality and social inclusion throughout our global programming. Our projects in Lebanon continue to show that fostering innovation and advancing social cohesion are critical in ever-evolving contexts.

We are committed to helping fulfill the promise that markets hold for improving livelihoods by supporting inclusive market access as a key pathway for economic empowerment.

At Lutheran World Relief in Lebanon, we are implementing methods that specifically focus on empowering women entrepreneurs through leadership training and skill building that will influence decisions made in their community. We are together demonstrating that a woman can break gender barriers and become who and what she wants to be, that there is no limit to what a woman can accomplish.

– Caroline Batarekh, Acting Programs Director, Lebanon

Robin Schmid, Mar 3, 2023 email