Yasmina Azhari – Al Yam International

It’s a man’s world, no more.

Imagine if you were born and raised in a country, where you worked and set up your business for over 33 years, and then one day, circumstances forced you to move away to a strange land and start all over again, what would you do? Well, in Yasmina Azhari’s case, the co-founder of Al Yam International for Businessmen Services, you do it successfully.

Her story.

Born to a Syrian father, and a Serbian mother, in the seaside city of Latakia in Syria, Yasmin joined her father in his shipping business at the age of 17. Not content with being his deputy, she decided to start out on her own, entering another male dominated sector after shipping, retail. Unfortunately, due to unforeseen circumstances, Yasmina had to leave her home country. She decided to migrate to Dubai, as it was a “hub for business”, and was the best choice as far as her children’s education was concerned. The move was not as easy as one would imagine, “It took me two years of sitting at home,crying, not knowing what to do, before I started my company, with a friend from Sharjah.” Ask her how the 2 years were like and she says, “I felt uprooted, lost in a way, it was very different from being in your own country.”

Being a woman in a man’s world.

Although Azhari worked primarily in male dominated sectors, she feels it was not as hard for her as it was for most others, for which she credits both, her father, and the city of Latakia, “I started doing my business from Latakia, a city by the sea on the Mediterranean, where we are open minded. It was not easy, but it was not so difficult either, especially because I started under the umbrella of my father, so I was always protected. Some people always tell me that you started under the umbrella of your father, but I say that’s not wrong, I was privileged, but then I grew up, I became stronger, I became well known, it gave me a power and a protection of my own, maybe if you were in any other country, it would have been difficult but in Latakia, it wasn’t so difficult.”Unfortunately, not all in the Arab world are so privileged, to those women her advice is to start small, “I think they should start getting benefits from the opportunities that they can reach, if it’s working from home, it’s fine, if it’s being a teacher, it’s fine, but they have to start somewhere. They should not sit and wait for opportunities, or rules and regulations to change, or for the community to change. It’s difficult, yes, but, I think you can fight in each and every society, for a way to start your own business, or a way to work, it’s very important.” Further stressing on the importance of women in the work force and what they can do, she says, “You know, we will prove that we can do it, they have to trust us, they have to give us opportunity, and we will prove that we can do it.”

The working woman and how to have the perfect home.

With a working woman, there is always the question of balance. The answer to that for Azhari always is, to prioritize, “As working mums, we really should have priorities, we have double responsibilities, which is why we should have an organized priority list , and for me depending on the age of the children, they should be on the priority list first,  because once they grow up, you have a lot of time to do whatever you want, and if you want to be successful in business, you, first, have to be successful in your house, in your children.”How does one prioritize while working for as long as 10 hours a day? As Azhari says, “It is the quality time that you spend with your children, not quantity time. “, she says, “You could be at home, you could shut your door, and be on the phone, or get your hair done, or you could spend 3 hours with your children, listening to what they say, watching them, controlling their behavior, as that is what they need, you can do it, you only have to choose your way of being a mum.” And on ways of being a mum, a successful businesswoman, and also managing the household, she adds, “When my daughter is at work, I work, cook, do the laundry. Being a working mum you have to sacrifice, so I decided to cut out my social life as I prefer to stay at home with my children and do my business anyway.” So with that schedule, does she ever relax? To that she answers, “I go for a massage, sometimes, but I am usually overloaded with work.” she concludes with a laugh.

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