With 20 years’ corporate business experience under her belt, Caroline Fattal knows a thing or two about running a company. Fattal not only heads Fattal Group as senior VP and board member but also gives coaching sessions about cooperative leadership and organizational development. In 2014, 2015 and 2020, she made Forbes Middle East’s 100 Power Businesswomen list. Here, Fattal discusses her activism for women’s economic empowerment and gender equality across the Middle East.
What is Stand for Women and how did the idea come about?
Stand for Women is an NGO established in Lebanon in 2017. Our core mission is to raise awareness about the importance of gender diversity in organizations. As a passionate advocate for women’s economic empowerment, I have always believed that women are full of potential and the drivers of greatly needed economic growth in the MENA region.
Following the explosion in Beirut on August 4, you launched the Marion Fund. Can you tell us more about it?
The Marion Fund was established in the memory of my aunt Marion Hochar Ibrahimchah, one of the innocent victims of the Beirut port explosion. The fund honors Marion’s legacy by helping more than 200 female-owned small and medium enterprises (SMEs) affected by the blast.
The fund prioritizes the most vulnerable businesses, helping them rebuild. By that, I mean the following three categories:
– Very small businesses such as grocery shops, pharmacies or tailors.
– SMEs that maintain or create jobs and employ more than five people, like supermarkets or restaurants.
– SMEs that preserve Beirut’s heritage, including designers, jewelers or guesthouses.
How many female-owned businesses in the hospitality industry did you manage to help until now?
To date, we have vetted 190 female-owned businesses and 43 are in progress or being finalized.
We are collaborating with many other NGOs and initiatives: Alfanar, Beit el Baraka, The Women Collective, Khaddit Beirut, Live Love Beirut, GCNL, Saint Vincent de Paul and UN Women to name a few. By joining efforts, we are able to divide the work; some take on the core and shell, and others handle the equipment.
In the hospitality industry, we joined forces with great women. Among our beneficiaries, you can find: Beit El Laffe guesthouse, Café Lys, Green Junkie catering, C Bon Cuisine catering. We have in the pipeline: Marinella Trattoria, The Barn restaurant, Mayrig restaurant, Crepe Jenyale snack, Organic Sisters catering, Cannelle Patisserie and Atelier ND chocolatier.
Do you have other initiatives in the pipeline?
We need to support the livelihoods of women. According to a UN report, Lebanese women’s participation in the economy is expected to fall by 14 to 19 percent due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the Beirut explosion. We cannot let this happen. We need to help Lebanese female entrepreneurs and employees in the workforce.
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Apart from the financial aid we offer to rebuild and equip businesses, women benefit from coaching and mentoring if and when they need it. Our team is here to accompany the transformation and growth of their businesses. The Marion Fund is all about fostering sisterhood and building a community of female change-makers in Beirut.