March 15, 2023

Three influencers join SPARK’s Women’s Day campaign meeting entrepreneurs and women-led businesses 

To celebrate International Women’s Day, SPARK invited three of the Middle East’s top social media influencers, Farrah Matalqa, Mohammad Sabbagh, and Ala’a Hamdan, to visit women-led businesses in Jordan and highlight women’s challenges in bridging the gender gap in the digital sector.

This year’s International Women’s Day was dedicated by UN Women to ‘DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality’. At SPARK, we strive to close the digital divide for young people, especially women and refugee women, living in fragile and conflict-affected areas. To celebrate women in tech, women-led businesses and women improving their digital skills, SPARK was joined by three of the Middle East’s top social media influencers. 

Farrah Matalqa, Mohammad Sabbagh, and Ala’a Hamdan, who collectively have around three million followers, visited entrepreneurs on International Women’s Day to hear their stories, their challenges and how digital skills and tools are helping them to succeed. Here’s what happened.

Farrah Matalka, the founder of the Giving Joy Foundation, is known by her audience for supporting less fortunate students by providing them with scholarships in Jordan through crowdfunding campaigns. Farrah visited several women-led startups that have been supported by SPARK and our partners. Farrah met with the Alefredo Books team, made up of 9 females and 1 male, to discuss their EdTech platform. Alefredo Books supports all grade students with exams, summaries, and an academic book marketplace in hard and digital formats. They also encourage book recycling and respect for intellectual property. The EdTech platform joined the From Innovation to Creation program to become market-ready and gain access to a valuable network, providing opportunities for scaling up. 

Farrah went to Irbid, north of Jordan, to meet the two founders of Studio-Raa, Raneem Muqbel and Rawan Mistareehi. Studio Ra is a sustainable and unique design studio that offers personalized and eco-friendly products and sells them worldwide through their website. Studio Ra received custom coaching sessions through the Economic Resilience through COVID-19 program, which enabled them to launch a new production line that provided jobs for 13 refugee women. and Yasmina Made With Love, which has each benefited from marketing, packaging and shipping support through Souq Fann and has increased their sales. “Enabling women to participate in the digital sector is essential as it offers them opportunities to broaden their customer base. Based on the examples I have seen today, I am confident that women are equally capable as men,” Matalka commented.

Group picture with Alefredo Books team ©2023, SPARK
Yasmina Made With Love shows how she use Souqfann platform to display her products©2023, SPARK
Rawan Mistareehi, the founder of Studio Ra, describes the company's business model, which is based on using environmentally friendly products. ©2023, SPARK

Mohammad Sabbagh, Jordanian radio host and social media influencer, visited Chickmania, a Jordanian games developer that has six live games on iOS and Android and more than four million downloads. Sabbagh was impressed to learn that over 30% of the Chickmania team consisted of women working in various departments, such as game design, product management, UI/ UX design, software engineering, and 2D/3D art. SPARK provided Chickmania with customised coaching sessions about financial management, operational systems and human resources management through  SPARK’s Jobs and Perspectives programme. Additionally, met with Nour Khateeb, founder of Nourtastic, a craft shop specialising in hand-painted pottery was supported to digitalise her business through our partner SouqFann. “Getting to know Chickmania and their story, as well as witnessing Nour’s passion, filled me with pride for the women and youth of Jordan,” said Sabbagh.

Lara Varouqa, the Art Director at Chickmania, as she sheds light on her responsibilities within the games team © 2023, SPARK
"Noor Alkhateb, the Founder of Nourtastic, talks about how digitizing her business led to an expansion in her customer base and a boost in revenue © 2023, SPARK
Group picture with Chickmania team © 2023, SPARK
Group picture with Souqfann team ©2023, SPARK

Ala Hamdan, a social media influencer, filmmaker and visual storyteller known for telling women’s stories and advocating for women’s rights, visited Viavii, an online community marketplace that allows people to explore, book and host in-person and online experiences from all around the world. The marketplace allows people to explore and host in-person and online experiences all around the world. Viavii benefited from SPARK’s programme, Economic Resilience through COVID-19, to take advantage of customized coaching sessions and training aimed at expanding their business and accessing new markets. As a result, Viavii was able to expand its platform to include Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Ala booked and enjoyed Relief Plaster Artwork, one of the local experiences booked through the Viavii platform. Ala also visited Hanady Alzanoon, the founder of Bedouin Spirit and listened to her experience of digitalising her businesses through the SouqFann platform, supported by SPARK. “Each woman I met during the day had a unique story that deserves to be highlighted, with a particular emphasis on their need for mentorship and funding in order to address the gender gap present in the digital world,” said Hamdan. 

Hanady Alzanoon, the founder of Bedouin Spirit, share insights on how digital platforms can elevate small businesses transition from home-based operations to gaining worldwide access © 2023, SPARK
Dina Malkawi explains the impact of her decision to join Viavii, an online community marketplace that enables individuals to discover, book, and host both in-person and virtual experiences from all corners of the globe © 2023, SPARK
Ala Hamdan browsing women's products at Souqfann shop ©2023, SPARK.

Thanks to Farrah Matalqa, Mohammad Sabbagh, and Ala’a Hamdan for highlighting the crucial role that women-led businesses play in the economy and the need to support them in closing the digital divide. Without access to digital skills and tools, the women visited by the influencers – and the influencers themselves – could not have achieved the success they have today. Digital skills can improve women’s access to education and employment, and for women-owned businesses, digitalisation can help to grow their companies, creating more jobs. Take a look at 6 ways we bridge the gender gap, digitally.