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Helping Women Rise

“Who runs the world?—Girls” Beyonce was on to something. When families are struggling it is often the woman who changes what’s for dinner, uses cheaper cleaning products, and mends clothing all to save a little extra cash. If that doesn’t work she gets a job to make ends meet. Worldwide around 40% of households are “woman run.” This means empowering these women with new skills and regular work will empower more than half the population. 

Fajr Beirut is dedicated to empowering these women. Giving a woman work doesn’t just affect her, but an entire family. The situation in Lebanon’s economy currently is not good. Giving employment to these women helps to raise these women out of poverty and gives them a peace that they will be able to feed their families and take care of their households.

Woman owned, woman directed, and woman run. From design to creation to the hand sewing of each individual notebook, Fajr is Lebanese. Local woman run businesses are key to moving Lebanon forward. Half the population can’t be stagnant when the economy is failing we need the women to be able to rise up, and this means giving them opportunities to help their families, and in the process flourish. 

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Meeting the Fajr families

In September 2018, I was lucky enough to head over to Lebanon from London to spend two weeks in Beirut (and surrounds).

Part of this trip included meeting up with Liesl – who at the time ran operations for Fajr and I hadn’t seen in six years! – and spending some time with the three Fajr families in their homes.

 It is one thing to work on a business from London and think about shipping margins and packing efficiency and another to sit and drink tea with the families who make our notebooks. They are beyond inspiring. At one point during the visits, I got a free makeover from some of the kids featuring very lovingly brushed hair and bright red nails.  

I also got to meet Francis and Hïba, who both worked on operations in Beirut at the time – making sure all the coffee shops we partner with have stock – and social media for Fajr, respectively. Power women! It was a really special time and left me more motivated than ever to grow awareness of Fajr notebooks and sell to more corners of the world. 

This year, running Fajr ‘on the ground’ has been taken on by Nuna and her family. Times are tough in Lebanon but we are looking to drive sales internationally in order to continue supporting the families through very difficult times. Due to inflation, it is no longer possible to sell notebooks within Lebanon itself and we have been sad to say goodbye to many of the wonderful stores that have sold our notebooks over the years.

Thank you for your time and support as we look to the rest of 2020 and what it holds.

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Meet Summer, a friend of Fajr in Taiwan

Fajr notebooks are available in stores around Beirut and in our web shop – but our dream is for them to be found further afield. We work with a number of wonderful, creative individuals who support Fajr by selling notebooks wherever they are in the world. Summer is one such friend of Fajr – she reached out after finding the project via Google towards the end of last year and decided to order some notebooks to sell in Taiwan.

You said in your very first email you’re a freelancer with a concern for the Syria crisis over the years. Can you share a bit about this?

2016, I became the producer of a short film focus on a Taiwanese who helped refugee families in Turkey. By visiting them once a year, I started to know more about Syria crisis and to make friends with some families.

Tell us about From Syria: when did it start, what is the vision, and how do you find products to sell?

2018, I visited some NGOs and social enterprises help Syrian in Turkey. I found it is a good way to make connection with Syria and Taiwan by selling these handmade crafts. For Taiwan, which is the country far away from mideast, these crafts can make people who knows nothing about Syria have a good beginning, also make those who want to join the issue find an easier way. I searched many crafts made by Syrian women on internet, and chose some featured, quality and functional products that will be sold easily in Taiwan. 

You found Fajr from Google! We were delighted to hear from you. Why did you decide to get in contact (what stood out about the notebooks)? Why did you choose the Aoud design?

Fajr notebooks are functional items. To top it all off, it is great to see there are some traditional mideast patterns or meanings on their design. Aoud is popular with our customers because of its lovely and symbolic appearance. One of our customers is an Aoud player, he bought it at the first sight.

Where have you sold notebooks? What was the response like?

I sold Fajr notebooks on handmade markets and our online shop. A student from Hong Kong bought one on handmade market and already finished it with colorful dairy and schedule. Most people expect the notebooks can have more pages and horizontal lines on pages. 

Anything else you’d like to share with us?

It’s my pleasure to introduce Fajr Beirut and sell these lovely items in Taiwan. Look forward to new products in the future. Hope this work can help more Syrian families to rebuild their lives!

We’re so grateful to Summer for her support.

If you’re interested in reselling Fajr notebooks in your area, we’re love to hear from you.

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Behind the scenes of shooting the first batch of notebooks

There a lot of things in life I wonder about. But something I never doubt is that I have really solid friends. Here’s a little story about a friendship I cherish, why you should do favours freely, and how I ended up getting such amazing photos for our products without spending any money. Winning.

Continue reading Behind the scenes of shooting the first batch of notebooks
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That feeling when you order a book online from yourself

This morning I placed an order on our website for the first time! After considerable tinkering I configured the payments et al. The remaining hurdle is to make sure the transactional emails are all working okay – then we can let the world know they can shop for notebooks!

It was a pretty good feeling to pay our business account £5.50 via PayPal (even if they whop off 3.4%).

I went for a Holly Gavin Aoud notebook, which I plan to give to my cousin this evening for her birthday. Fun times!