Sometimes you meet someone and you can just feel that they are destined for greatness. Jihad is one of those people. She has always been involved in and leading positive initiatives throughout her time at university and afterwards, even working on projects with such prominent people as Ahmed AlShugairi on his show Khawater. More recently, Jihad has cofounded a project called Flea 4 Charity, where she takes advantage of living in a city of abundance to positively benefit the political, social, and economic situation in the Middle East.
|1. Tell us a little about Flea for Charity and how the idea came about.
Flea 4 Charity started in March 2011. My partner Luz Salem Villamel and I were always involved in charity work since our university years. We always use to end up being at the same CSR events without even planning to do so. We always talked about starting a project to serve our communities but never knew what exactly we want to do and where to start. Then the revolutions started, Tunis, Egypt, then Libya and it was the most aggressive one. Without giving it a second thought, we felt we had to be proactive and do something about it, especially since we both shared the same Libyan friends. We discovered that one of them was involved in an initiative called Tawaseel that started in the name of the Libyan Revolution. Tawaseel used to raise funds to buy the required aids in Egypt and deliver it to Libya through the Egyptian – Libyan borders. We called our friend and told him that we want to help and we were not sure how.
One morning Luz calls me up & says: “Jihad, how about we participate in the next Dubai Flea Market? My brother Samy is suggesting that we sell what we don’t need and the money we collect will be given to Tawaseel. I know we haven’t got much to sell but it is still better than nothing. I will spread the word among my friends as well to see if they are interested in donating their unwanted items such as clothes, books, accessories & house ornaments.” I agreed without giving it a second thought and voila! We knew that was exactly what we have been looking for all along. We’ve been participating in the Dubai Flea Market ever since then and we now started to do our own events.
|2. How do you choose the causes you want to support?
Sadly we are in a world that is full of crisis and disasters and so far all our causes have been chosen spontaneously depending on what’s going on. Our aim is to get involved in as many causes as possible, since we feel it’s unfair to focus only on a certain cause.
|3. How long did it take for your initiative to really take off?
Well we have been dreaming of starting something for years, yet it all happened spontaneously when we saw what was going on in Libya.
|4. On average, how much is donated per month?How much have you raised so far?
Well the money we raised depends on the causes and the seasons and the cause changes every 2 months. The first 2 months we raised AED 10,000 for the Libyan Revolution. After that, we raised AED 15,000 for the Ramadan Iftars for the labor workers in Dubai. Then, AED 116,000 was raised in the name of the East African Drought. For our next cause, we raised AED 30,000 for the Orphan/Unfortunate kids Eid Al Fitr celebration that we organized, however only AED 5,000 was used for the celebration and the rest of the money was given as scholarships for the kids. In October, we raised AED 1,700 dedicated Breast Cancer and the money was given to Safe & Sound, who provide breast cancer patients with medication and other necessities. During our Eid Al Adha celebration that we put together for over 130 orphaned and unfortunate children, AED 12,000 was raised. Just like the previous Eid, we gave most of the money in scholarships, only spending AED 2,000 on the celebration.
|5. What advice would you give to someone looking to start a similar initiative?
I would say follow your heart and passion. Such initiatives do not really need budgets. They need dedication, consistency and a few reliable friends..
|6. How do you feel that being a Muslim women has helped you succeed?
Well I always keep in mind that Islam is not only about “3ibadat” (actions such as praying and fasting), but it’s a way of life. As a Muslim, being alive is not only about me and my relationship with God, it’s more about my daily actions and contributions to my community, family, friends & those in need. And all those deeds should be done with lots of “i7san”, “itqan”, “sidq” & love (good intentions and trustworthiness).
|7. Do you have any Muslim women role models?
Yes, a lot actually. My grandmother Nisria, may she rest in peace, my mom and my friends Luz, Rana, Shadia, Abir, Reem, Abir, Serena, Nadia (the list is endless). They are heros. They are superwomen and so much more.
|8. Do you feel that Muslim women have a strong role in entrepreneurial initiatives in the Middle East?
No not really. I believe we are way behind.
|9. What do you feel is the perception of women in Dubai and surrounding areas.
Well here in Dubai women are powerful; their situation is way better than other Muslim women in other countries. They’ve got lots of rights and support and all this comes from the government. Once a woman has the government’s support, it is easy for her to be successful and gain respect and appreciation from the people around.
|10. As an entrepreneur, what is the most common misconception about Muslim women that you would like to change.
Well, that’s a hard question. I would say the misconception that Muslim women are underestimated and they are just followers and are controlled. Also the misconception that they are not powerful, creative, or think out of the box. And many more.
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