Microfinance Helps Entrepreneur Bring Fitness To Maan’s Women

By Bahaa Al Deen Al Nawas Jordan Times, Amman.

AMMAN

Heba Ghaith, a sport lover from Maan, has taken it upon herself to enable her fellow Maani women to keep fit and work out in a comfortable space.

A computer science engineer who used to be a top athlete in basketball and handball, Ghaith used to spend long vacations in Amman, where she would practise sports daily at gyms.

However, after she got married and had four kids, she was unable to spend much time away from Maan, where she says she did not find any proper gym to enrol at.

This situation inspired her to consider opening a gym of her own reserved only for women, she told The Jordan Times.

After several years of thinking over the idea, Ghaith decided to try seriously to implement it.

Yet she faced difficulties such as a lack of available start-up money and high prices for gym equipment.

Ghaith's opportunity came when she found a Facebook page called "Forsa" (Chance), through which she learned about Jordan Micro Credit Company's (Tamweelcom) "Fekrati" award.

The idea for a women-only gym in Maan, some 220km south of Amman, fulfilled the award's conditions and was viewed as innovative, since it would be the first of its kind in the city, according to the business founder.

"Fekrati helped by admitting me into intensive workshops to ensure my idea's success.When the results were announced, I won the first prize in the service category," she recalled.

"Tamweelcom offered me these intensive workshops and also hired Saleem Sawalha, country manager for Jordan, Palestine and Iraq at Visa, to be my guide and observe my work continuously for two years, helping me with every step or decision I take," Ghaith said.

Established in 1999, Tamweelcom is a regional microfinance institution owned by the Noor Al Hussein Foundation, which operates independently under the umbrella of the King Hussein Foundation.

The institution recently launched the Youth Business Jordan initiative to support young entrepreneurs as part of a partnership with the UK institution Youth Business International, which is an international network of independent organisations supporting "underserved" young people who want to start their own businesses.

"Through Tamweelcom, I received funding for my business idea without interest, in addition to personal funding as well," Ghaith said.

With the money from Tamweelcom, she was able to rent a venue. She designed the gym and worked for three months to surmount additional challenges such as obtaining permits and receiving approvals from different authorities.

Finally, the entrepreneur was able to register the gym, which she called "My Fitness", and officially opened the facility on December 16, 2015.

The gym is open from 9am to 6pm every day, except Fridays and currently has 20 members, Ghaith said, adding that future plans include sections for aerobics, hiring a nutrition expert, opening a cafeteria and a special play area for children, dedicated for housewives who cannot leave their children alone at home.

Ghadeer Krechan, a member of the gym and deputy director at the Microfund for Women, said she heard about the gym from the public relations department at her workplace, adding that new things in Maan are easy to spot.

Lamees Almasri, another member, said she heard of the gym from her neighbours, who helped in setting it up, agreeing that the dearth of new businesses in Maan makes new ventures stand out.

Almasri added that she followed My Fitness' Facebook page to stay updated.

Ghaith said she intends to open other branches of the women-only gym in the southern governorates, adding that she is also keen to offer jobs to women in her society, especially in Maan, where she says jobs are limited to the public sector, which cannot take in all graduates from universities and colleges.

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