Powered by UNICEF Lebanon, funded by the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the German Cooperation (KFW), and organized by INJAZ Lebanon and the Nawaya Network, the first edition of Jawa2ez GIL took place on July 27th at Antwork (Hamra). Teams of young entrepreneurs, who have launched enterprises through UNICEF Lebanon’s Generation of Innovation Leaders program (GIL), were brought into a unique and intensive learning experience that allowed them to both elevate themselves as business owners, as well as gain exposure and support from donors to grow their startups.
GIL is a program powered by UNICEF Lebanon and implemented by the Nawaya Network and INJAZ Lebanon (entrepreneurship track), as well as DOT Lebanon (digital track), and is designed to address the high unemployment rates among youth nationwide and their lack of access to the knowledge economy. It helps disadvantaged youth in Lebanon build their entrepreneurial and digital capacities to enable them to attain better career opportunities and become self-sustaining, income-generating members of society. GIL Innovation Labs operate nationwide to make sure the program reaches those residing even in the most secluded and marginalized areas, through partnerships with local stakeholders. In these labs, youth are provided with trainings, workshops, and events where they discover new opportunities, network with like-minded people, and develop their digital and entrepreneurial skills.
In true GIL spirit, Jawa2ez is a rigorous two-day bootcamp that ultimately opens doors for participating youth teams into their specific ecosystems, serving as a solid networking forum where business owners connect with suitable partners, suppliers, investors and clients. A formidable funnel opportunity into various business sectors, throughout these two days, Jawa2ez gave these young entrepreneurs the opportunity to:
- Hone their pitching skills to better sell their business to potential investors and donors
- Receive mentorship and further guidance across the facets of being business owners, in terms of management, development and execution
- Obtain additional funding and business support to boost their micro-businesses
Tamara Zakharia, UNICEF Youth Officer, opened the event, saying, “UNICEF Lebanon believes that any type of impact made on youth and for youth in Lebanon is achieved through long-term and sustained support. Jawa2ez GIL is an initiative that provides mentorship, funding and technical advice to youth who have previously participated in GIL programs and need further support to grow their businesses. Accordingly, the program fills a critical gap, in that there are few initiatives that support small, burgeoning “non-start-up” enterprises at the very early stages of their development.”
And as the second day came to an exciting close, 8 of the participating teams were selected as the top participants, receiving additional funding for the development and advancement of their businesses. While all remaining teams received business support vouchers for the priority opportunity areas in growing their startups. Listening to the participants, the guests had the chance to discover new passions and business projects that changed the lives of these youth:
- Robotech (North Akkar): Founded by Naji, a Computer & Communications Engineer who graduated from LIU and won an award in VEX Robotics (Kentucky, United States) and who noticed the lack of children’s knowledge in programming and technology, limiting their potential and opportunities. Through his first participation in GIL, Naji opened Robotech, which is a school that teaches Robotics to children and youth. Thanks to his success and how he is making a difference in children’s lives around him, he won today a new grant that will allow him to expand, hire more trainers and offer more free classes.
- Green Energy for Green Life (Bekaa): Ali Hellani is an active advocate of eco-friendly and green sustainable lifestyle, and a resident in the Bekaa area where most dairy factories exist and operate. He noticed the big amount of plastic waste produced and thrown into trash. And this was when he decided to turn this problem into an opportunity through his participation in the GIL project which allowed him to purchase the Crusher Machine that chops the plastic and turns it into powder to be sold again to factories. Ali impressed the judges with his dedication and success, and was thus granted support to explore the paper bag industry and to expand his vision to most of the shops in his surroundings.
- City Greens (Baaqline): Through the GIL program, Wael Kamaleddine created a cupboard planting system that can be installed indoors, in apartments, restaurants and other shops where space is scarce to grow vegetables and greens. These cupboards are optimized for growing micro-greens, which pack a punch when it comes to nutrition, flavor and health benefits. Wael’s plantation system is completely organic, pesticide free and affordable. Proving the benefits and sustainability of his business concept, Wael was one of the top winners, receiving additional coaching and funding to grow his micro-greens business.
- ● NC Challenger: Ahmad, a young engineering student, has created an NC laser cutting and engraving machine for bigger, more commercial usage, effectively turning a smaller machine with limited usage into a useful large scale one which cuts and engraves doors, big, mirrors, etc. The NC Challenger translates visuals from a computer through a specific software and reproduces it by cutting the actual shape of the design on wood, plastic and aluminum. Despite his young years, Ahmad’s perseverance has earned him one of the top spots at Jawa2ez GIL.
- Craft and Arts (Nabatiyeh): Twenty-four-year-old Ghadir from Nabatiyeh grew up around women doing embroidery. From her close relatives to neighbors, Ghadir would observe their beautiful creations only to then decide learning this art herself. Through GIL, she was able to put a modern twist by applying her embroidery to customized wall frames, rings, necklaces and other decorative items. With her unparallel creativity and the target’s perception to her art, she got the support of the judges.
Given the moving success of this unique initiative, Jawa2ez GIL will undoubtedly strive for many editions to come, continuing to offer disadvantaged youth the chance to be heard, seen and recognized, and for the Lebanese community to both benefit from and support these absolute success stories.