UNICEF builds the entrepreneurial skills of Syrian youth to create new opportunities

“I started thinking of a solution for myself and for thousands of students like me; this is what inspired me to start Tabshoura (chalk),”

young girl posing to camera
UNICEF/ Syria 2019/ Muhannad Al-Asadi
15 July 2019

To help Syrian youth cope with the impact of eight years of conflict and reach their full potential, UNICEF launched livelihoods, seed-funding and entrepreneurship programme. Since the beginning of the year, thanks to generous funding from Canada and Luxembourg, almost 72,000 children and young people aged 10 to 24 benefited from an extensive training on entrepreneurship, civic engagement, and life skills. At the end of the programme, after presenting unique and compelling project proposals, 117 youth-led initiatives received seed-funding to turn their projects into reality.

Heba, 22, is one of the youths who turned their challenges into a social business to help others, with the support of UNICEF.

“I have studied in public schools my whole life and cannot remember how many times I went back home demotivated because I couldn’t understand the lessons," recalls Heba, now a university student of electronic and communications engineering.

Back in 2012, Heba and her family were forced to flee as violence escalated near their home in Harasta, rural Damascus, leaving behind all their belongings.

“We had to start from scratch; my father’s pharmacy was destroyed in the fighting in Harasta, and we had no source of income other than my sister’s salary which is barely enough to cover necessities,”

Now in university, Heba found herself in need of a few private classes to help with her studies, which are too expensive for the family’s deteriorating financial situation.

“I started thinking of a solution for myself and for thousands of students like me; this is what inspired me to start Tabshoura (chalk),” she continues.

When Heba found out about the livelihoods, seed-funding and entrepreneurship programme supported by UNICEF through IECD (Institut Européen de Coopération et de Développement) through social media, she immediately signed up for the 10-day workshop.

“When they informed me that I was accepted into the programme I felt that my dream was coming true.”

After the workshop, participants prepared extensive work plans to be discussed in front of an evaluation committee to determine their eligibility for seed-funding.

“Tabshoura is a smart phone application that connects school and university students with relevant private teachers who offer affordable prices,”

“Students can search for teachers based on the geographical location, grades, fees, and years of experience”.

Heba will use the seed-funding she received to launch the application and market it to children, parents and teachers. She’s also planning to participate in entrepreneurship fairs to further promote it.

“The programme not only gave me the funding to launch the app but also the necessary knowledge to run a successful business,” says Heba excitedly.

“Whenever I face a challenge while developing my business, I find myself going back to the notes taken during the training,”.

Heba is also creating a pool of teachers willing to provide their services free of charge for children who cannot afford private classes.

“A chalk is one little thing in the hand of a teacher, but it can mean the world to a student,”