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  • Writer's pictureHMN Team

Recap of the 2022 HerMeNow Accelerator Retreat in Dubai

We closed off the 2022 HerMeNow Accelerator cycle with an in-person retreat at the StardustConcept offices in Dubai. This video summary gives insight into the program's design and hear from the team and the participants themselves.

Below is the transcript of the video summary of the HerMeNow 2022 Retreat in Dubai.

​​00:01 Noor Jaber

The experience has been amazing. What I really loved about the program is the structure and the pedagogy.

00:08 Linda Sigila

We got access to people that we wouldn't have gotten access to as an individual. Let me say from my part, I wouldn't have gotten access to such people.

00:16 Meelie Pemberton

Learning about things that you're meant to consider for a business that I just didn't, I'd never come across.

00:21 Sarah Muindi

We've not only learnt, but we've also implemented a lot.

00:25 Marie-Claire Kuja

I can proudly say that I learned from the HerMeNow program. That makes me stand out from other founders, especially in the region.

00:39 Natacha Fazal Karim

I'm Natacha Fazal Karim, I'm the founder of HerMeNow.

00:44 Tamara Ghandour

I’m Tamara Ghandour, and I'm the deputy executive director at HerMeNow.

00:48 Natacha Fazal Karim

We've been brainstorming for some time on how to help women. How can we, what can we do? I was like, why don't you look into creating an accelerator? You can basically touch a lot of women, make an impact on helping them bring their businesses to the next level.

01:06 Tamara Ghandour

Most importantly, I think it's giving them a voice to showcase the way that it is possible to be an entrepreneur while still being impact driven, caring about your communities and making a difference out there.

01:17 Natacha Fazal Karim

We're going to focus on MENA region and Africa because obviously it is the region where it's left behind by far. And Tamara at that point had an experience of being in an accelerator herself. And she decided, like, why don’t we reach out to Bloom?

01:32 David Munir Nabti

My name is David Munir Nabti. I'm the CEO and co-founder of Bloom.

01:37 Bilal Ghalib

I'm Bilal, I'm one of the co-founders of Bloom.

01:39 David Munir Nabti

And we run entrepreneurship and entrepreneurship education programs around the Middle East.

01:44 Bilal Ghalib

When the opportunity came up, I was really excited about it. Our programs have been having more and more women join from the beginning, once we started going online, just because it made it more accessible.

01:54 David Munir Nabti

we actually got 1,234 applications and we had a really difficult time picking around 30 to 40 teams to join a two week sprint. But anyway, we selected for the sprint and then from that we selected 10 teams into the accelerator phase.

02:10 Sarah Abi Abdallah

So basically the two main objectives were to give the teams knowledge and training when it comes to business and technical knowledge and also to give them a grant so they can help with capacity building

02:22 David Munir Nabti

One of the reasons why we shifted to online programs to begin with, about six years ago, was because we found interesting research into what are barriers to women's participation in economies around the Middle East. So we found that there were two main factors for that. One of them was around constraints on mobility, especially social constraints on mobility. In many places, it's culturally more difficult for women to go away to a conference for a couple days or get to go to a workshop in the evening that's an hour, a couple hours away from their home, and then they have to go back late at night. And especially in a lot of these countries, public transportation is really inadequate. And it's especially inadequate for women.

03:01 Bilal Ghalib

You know you don't have to leave home in the middle of the night. In the Middle East, sometimes parents don't really want daughters to leave when it's late, or if you have children, for instance.

03:10 David Munir Nabti

But then we also love the hybrid programs that have an in person element.

03:20 Bilal Ghalib

As much as I love running virtual programs, being able to give each other hugs, to look into each other's eyes without a screen in the way is so beautiful.

03:32 Natacha Fazal Karim

Like if one is sad, to be able to hug her. To tell her it's okay, you're here today. All that happened, all the struggles, all the tears, it's been part of the process. It's been part of your journey. But you made it.

03:47 Bilal Ghalib

One of the most beautiful parts of the program, I think, was just getting to see a tiny part of the world. But now we're all here. In person, in Dubai, at Natacha's house, in her backyard and hanging out and dancing and being together.

04:02 Stephanie Shaar

I think it was just so beautiful to have the chance to meet so many women who want to stand up and share their stories and work hard to, you know, make their dreams come true and make their visions reality.

04:14 David Munir Nabti

Women in this program, in this cycle are so amazing and inspiring and working on such incredibly beautiful issues, solutions to such deep challenges in the community.

04:29 Natacha Fazal Karim

They have hope, they are driven, they have resilience. Because where they are today, it took them a lot of courage. To not like being pushed down - “You're never going to make it. You're not good enough”. They didn't listen to it. They put their blockers and they just moved forward and they move forward with the idea of not “oh, I'm just going to make it big for myself”, but all of them have this common point. It's like they want to help their communities, they want to help others.

05:00 Keren Makari

What makes them different is them not taking us as “enterprises in the our accelerated program”. But team members, so we are able to work together and grow together.

05:13 Linda Sigila

I would say the experience is empowering. That's the one word that I would use because a lot of the startup founders are just told what to do. But for the first time it felt like we were being heard.

05:25 Marie-Claire Kuja

From feeling that I belong to somewhere where people care and and trust me and trust in my vision and care so much to help build that vision and make it a reality. I have felt a sense of sisterhood from all the girls in the program. It felt like it's a family.

05:45 Esther Muni

Making friends with people from different parts of the world. That connection and that friendship that are like willing to support me through different parts.

05:55 Lamis Akouch

I didn't consider that I would have those relationships and deep, honest, genuine people.

06:02 Marwa Hussein And Natacha, she is one-of-a-kind person. She leads by kindness. She's a rich soul, giving everything and giving what it takes to make it the best experience ever. So Natacha is my gift.

06:25 Meelie Pemberton I was thinking, if I could describe it in one word, it's like love. It's just full of love and belief in these women, including myself, to like, help other women. And again, just led by example from the team here with so much care but so productive, you know, there's so much action happening. It's not just love and care. It's love and care with a real plan and a real strategy. They've created this community for us. It's just, it's felt so personalized. Give me a second. God, it's so bizarre. Pathetic. Send over a tissue. Thank you.

07:10 Marie-Claire Kuja

I cannot even say enough how grateful I am. I cannot say it enough. This is so life changing to me. ‘Cause I come from a nursing background, and I just needed to learn the language of social entrepreneurship. I was crying everyday “I only wish I can find this kind of place I can go and start like a baby to learn.” And then I found them and they were so kind.

08:01 Natacha Fazal Karim

So this is why it's been very exciting for me to be there, to be close to them. They bring love, they bring joy, they bring emotion. And it's so worth it. It's the best reward, it's the best feeling.

08:16 David Munir Nabti We want to continue thinking of how to support them. How can they keep supporting each other? How can we help more and more those efforts to grow? And then how can we collectively keep building momentum to find more wonderful people working on these incredible projects to keep building that momentum, to help more of these initiatives. Get the support they need to grow, have positive impact and address critical challenges.

08:35 Bilal Ghalib

I think it was just a great opportunity and we had great supporters with great vision. And a great team to make it happen.

08:42 Natacha Fazal Karim

We started this idea like less than a year ago and look where we are! So now we're even more motivated, we're even more ambitious. We want more women to benefit from this program and we want to be out there even more faster. Like we do one program? no, no, we're gearing up with the second cycle now.


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