Women refugee entrepreneurs in the Middle East: photo documentary opens at MSM

“I am not a woman, not an entrepreneur and not a refugee, but I am the governor of all Limburg citizens. And those Limburg people do, of course, include women, entrepreneurs and also refugees”, said Theo Bovens, Governor of the Province of Limburg, as he opened the photo documentary “Selling Strength” on Thursday 6 April 2017 at Maastricht School and Management.

[Picture: Jeroen Berkhout, Professor Josette Dijkhuizen, Governor of the Province of Limburg Theo Bovens, Assistant Professor Nora Stel and Professor Wim Naudé]

Drawn to the photo documentary “Selling Strength” a full audience of external stakeholders, faculty, staff and students were present at the opening ceremony in the MSM Business lounge. The photo documentary is based on the work of MSM’s Professor Josette Dijkhuizen and Jeroen Berkhout, Communications consultant and photographer, to support and strengthen women refugees in Lebanon and Jordan. Governor Theo Bovens expressed that he can only imagine how difficult it must be to have to flee from the comfort of your own home because of war, violence and destruction. “This photo exhibition fills me with hope. Because, if these enterprising women represent the ‘potential and resilience’ of the Syrian people, then Limburg and its newcomers will definitely be a good match”.


Professor Wim Naudé, Dean of MSM, started the program by welcoming the audience and briefly introduced MSM and its most recent achievements. In his introduction to the speakers Professor Wim Naudé stressed the importance of the work of Professor Josette Dijkhuizen in bridging entrepreneurship and female empowerment, two of the priorities of MSM. Professor Josette Dijkhuizen and MSM have worked together to develop a specific entrepreneurship pilot project for migrants and refugees in the Netherlands.

Professor Josette Dijkhuizen, emphasized in her presentation that, according to the World Bank, women invest 60% more than men of their income in the families’ welfare, such as healthcare and education. Supporting these women benefits not only their families but even generations to come. Since jobs are not available, these women start their own small businesses to become independent and to be able to take care of their families.

Nora Stel, Assistant professor at MSM, has worked as a researcher in the Palestinian Refugee Settlements in Lebanon. In her presentation she mentioned that not every refugee can be a prospective entrepreneur and not all types of entrepreneurship are desirable. Most crucially: supporting refugee entrepreneurship should never be an excuse to abandon the world’s most vulnerable people and leave them to fend for themselves. “This exhibition uniquely captures the entrepreneurial spirit of many refugees in a way that celebrates their resilience without losing sight of the challenging, complex and against-the-odds reality that female refugee entrepreneurs face.“ said Nora.

In 2015 UNRWA, The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees, had to close the schools in several refugee camps in Lebanon due to insufficient funding. The picture above show three young boys sitting in front of the school that was recently closed [photo courtesy: Jeroen Berkhout]

You can visit the photo documentary “Selling Strength” until Thursday 4 May in the business lounge of MSM, Endepolsdomein 150, Maastricht.

Related news:
Entrepreneurship pilot project for migrants in the Netherlands
Blogs Nora Stel
Migrants as entrepreneurs: New Evidence

Maastricht School of Management | Tapijnkazerne 11, 6211 ME Maastricht, The Netherlands | www.msm.nl | msm-infomail@maastrichtuniversity.nl