BEIRUT: Between juggling a demanding career and being wife and mother of two children, Esraa Haidar has definitely set the bar high.
After graduating with a degree in marketing from the American University of Beirut and starting her MA in organization behavior, Haidar embarked on her quest to find a career.
Like all job hunters, she faced several rejections but, one of these stood out: Haidar was once denied a job opportunity because she wears a hijab.
It was after this rejection that Haidar created an online blog allowing hijabi women to share their stories.
“Soon enough other fellow hijabis were pitching in their stories,” She told Annahar while discussing how this made her feel less alone.
After an empowering speech that Haidar gave at TED x BEIRUT about her personal story, both challenges, and successes, she was offered a job at Al Etejah English Channel that included producing and presenting a TV show titled “Evening.” The show addressed women’s rights issues in the region.
She also taught at the Lebanese International University, wrote business stories for the MIT Enterprise Forum - Pan Arab Region, worked as a social media trainer, and was later hired as a marketing executive.
“It makes sense after all,” Haidar stated, adding that “no one should be judged for the choices they make” as she referred to her hijab.
Fast forward a few more years, Haidar found herself in the prime time of her career and happily married.
Yet, at a certain period of her marriage, Haidar had to leave her work behind and travel with her husband, who got an opportunity to do his residency in medicine, to the United States.
“I was born and raised in the U.S. until I was nine years old,” she said. “My parents brought the family back to Lebanon so we could learn our culture and traditions first hand.”
Since she was still keen on continuing her career, she started working as an online Arabic social media editor for a company based in the United Kingdom.
Being in the U.S. with her children, Haidar started noticing that a whole world was designed especially for children: children’s parks, museums, and public play areas. Things that Lebanese children usually don’t have access to.
She would travel with her children every summer to Lebanon for three months, and she would notice the lack of affordable, safe, and educational play areas for kids.
That’s when she decided to take matters into her own hands, and open an education play center, that she called “Al Mawaddah,” located in one of the corners of her parent’s house in her village in South Lebanon.
“We charge $2 for two hours and I get most of the toys and books with me from the U.S. The kids absolutely love it,” she added.
The center is a social enterprise, whatever profit they make they use to cover their costs, and advance the center; it’s a zero profit recreational area for kids which also increases local employment opportunities for persons to work at the play center.
“As Lebanese, we have always been known to roam around the world in search of better opportunities. But, I believe it’s our duty to give back to our country and our community in any way possible,” Haidar explained. “This center is my way of giving back.”
Welcome to “Naya”, the newest addition to Annahar’s coverage. This section aims at fortifying Lebanese women’s voices by highlighting their talents, challenges, innovations, and women’s empowerment.
We will also be reporting on the world of work, family, style, health, and culture. Naya is devoted to women of all generations-Naya editor, Sally Farhat: Sally.firstname.lastname@example.org
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