I met Aya Mlettat during my first summer at TYO in 2009. At the time, she was a volunteer in my girls’ dance class. She would often tell me about her passions and her plans to pursue a professional track that would allow her to help others. She would carry on these conversations about the future with ease while maintaining a watchful eye on the girls and ensuring me that I was doing a good job leading the class.
Her compassion for others and her aspirations for professional success were as clear then as they are now. However, Aya now emanates confidence and determination to make a life that she wants for herself that was not present a year ago.
Aya has not always known what she truly wants. Before taking part in the Fostering Women’s Entrepreneurship in Nablus program (FWEN), a joint cooperation between TYO and the Cherie Blair Foundation, Aya wasn’t sure how to proceed. She knew she wanted to be successful, independent, and confident, with a “strong personality”, but she did not know how to make those things happen. As she stood, frustrated in place, she explained to me that before FWEN she did not know what steps to take, nor how to take them. She needed tangible business-style skills and increased confidence — both factors being equally important.
Aya comes from a village outside of Nablus in which the societal rules governing what are appropriate professional pursuits for women are more conservative and limiting than in many neighboring villages or Nablus itself. Farming, for example, is a male dominated profession. Aya, however, decided that goat farming is, in fact, what she wants to do. So this year, despite disapproving looks and several awkward moments, Aya took part in a farming training session only composed of men.
Aya’s mission is to own her own farm and become financially independent. “I feel proud of myself”, she says. “I’m walking step by step in the right way towards my success in starting my own farm, which will be called Solidarity farm.” Aya knows what she wants and is determined to get it.