Our impact, their voices

Khuloud’s story: Addressing gender stereotypes and improving livelihoods through skills development

The ILO is training Syrian and Lebanese youth in skills that are aligned with labour market needs while simultaneously promoting women’s inclusion in “non-traditional” courses for better employment opportunities.

Feature | 01 June 2021
Khouloud Maaz welding and with the flames of blow torches
“I have always been fascinated by welding and with the flames of blow torches,” said Khouloud Maaz, a 21-year-old Lebanese trainee who participated in competency-based training implemented by the ILO and the Safadi Foundation, a Lebanese NGO providing skills training. However, she always held back from pursuing this interest because welding is considered men’s work and not suitable for women.

Maaz first heard about the training from friends who had attended previous courses at the Safadi Accelerated Vocational Training Center (SAVOTEC), and had told her about the positive experiences they had. She reached out to the centre and inquired about available programmes. She decided to join the welding course as it satisfied both her passion and personal goals.

Maaz describes her experience during the training as successful and positive. “The training sessions were excellent and provided me with a wealth of knowledge and skills. Even though everything was a bit delayed due to the Covid-19-induced lockdown and precautionary measures, we made it through, and that in itself is a success. But for me, I can now work wherever I want in the dearest profession to my heart!” said Maaz.

The training not only provided Maaz with the skills she needs to gain employment in welding. She says it had a positive impact on her personal wellbeing, and empowered her to be more independent, improved her self-esteem and transformed her into a more confident person.

Maaz is one of the 100 Syrian and Lebanese youth who received training under Skill-Up Lebanon project that aims to support the skills system reform in Lebanon. The project also supports young women’s participation in technical and vocational training programmes, helping to transform gender norms.

“I am so glad that my family is not limited by social and cultural norms imposed by society. And I am so grateful that, when my family saw my passion towards this profession, they encouraged me to pursue it. Not many have this opportunity. This is a major factor that helped me succeed,” said Maaz. She believes that she and other young women who took part the training can change misconceptions about the welding profession being strictly for men, and pave the way for other women to access male-dominated training and professions.

Skill-up Lebanon – ILO development cooperation programme funded by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs – focuses on mainstreaming entrepreneurship education through the Know About Business (KAB) programme, and on training Lebanese and Syrian youth on market relevant skills. The skills training component involved implementing vocational training programmes for three occupations in the construction sector (foreman road maintenance, welding, and steel fixing and setting). These training programmes were designed in line with ILO guidelines on non-formal market-based skills training that aim to improve the quality and relevance of training. Following the Beirut Port blast on 4 August 2020, and in response to emerging needs, two additional vocational training programmes for plumbing and glass installation were introduced under the Skill-Up Lebanon project. These two training programmes targeted 35 Syrian and Lebanese youth who, as part of their on-the-job training, had the opportunity to support the rehabilitation of the affected homes and businesses in Beirut.