Libyan food delivery service looks to serve up gender equality

Fatima Nasser. (Yummy)
Updated 11 July 2018
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Libyan food delivery service looks to serve up gender equality

  • She now has 300 cooks ready to start work, having trialled the service successfully with 20 in the southern Libyan city of Sabha
  • Working with Yummy is wonderful and has made things a lot easier

LONDON: Fatima Nasser’s new business had barely got off the ground when she was accused of being a foreign spy for giving women employment opportunities in Libya, her war-torn home country.
The accusation was a measure of the opposition working women face in the conservative Muslim country, which has been in turmoil since a NATO-backed revolt toppled long-time leader Muammar Qaddafi in 2011.
Just one in four Libyan women is employed, according to World Bank data — a situation Nasser, 21, hopes to change with a new food delivery app that allows them to earn money from their own kitchens.
“I’m just doing something to help women that I know deserve better. They need opportunities, just like males,” Yasser told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
The app, Yummy, connects women who cook at home with customers wanting to order food, in much the same way as Uber connects private drivers with would-be passengers.
It acts as a conduit, offering anonymity options for the cooks, and allows women to take food orders from men without having to speak to them.
“You have a society that has been closed for 100 years, you can’t just open a communication gate between two genders that were not supposed to talk to each other unless they were married to do business,” said Nasser.
She now has 300 cooks ready to start work, having trialled the service successfully with 20 in the southern Libyan city of Sabha — among them 26-year-old Ekhlas Ekrim.
Ekrim has been cooking and selling her food on Yummy for four months in Sabha, where a lack of security and ongoing fighting between rival armed groups have prevented her from going out to work to earn much-needed cash.
“Here they won’t accept that women work. Here your father or brother is responsible to give you money and everything that you need as a woman in the house,” said Ekrim, who lives with her parents, two brothers and two sisters, via WhatsApp.
“Working with Yummy is wonderful and has made things a lot easier. The work itself is not hard, society is.”

HOPE FOR CHANGE
Oil-rich Libya was once one of the wealthiest countries in the Middle East, but its economy has been crippled by conflict and political division.
Security in many parts of the country is poor and the protracted conflict has meant more women having to earn a living as men go off to fight, says development organization MEDA, which teaches business skills to women in Libya.
“Culturally it’s maybe not as appropriate for women to work outside the house. An app like that could circumnavigate some of those issues,” said MEDA director Adam Bramm.
Last year Yummy was one of three winners of the nationwide Enjazi competition, which aims to encourage entrepreneurship to help diversify Libya’s oil-dependent economy.
Nasser won business training and advice from the MIT Enterprise Forum of the Pan Arab Region and Tatweer Research, which support entrepreneurship in the region.
The prize included a trip to Britain to meet and learn from successful entrepreneurs.
“If a woman started a start-up (in Libya) she would not have the same encouragement and support that her brother had,” she said.
“But hopefully this will change. People are starting to believe in females more and more now.”


World’s oldest bread found at prehistoric site in Jordan

Updated 17 July 2018
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World’s oldest bread found at prehistoric site in Jordan

WASHINGTON: Charred remains of a flatbread baked about 14,500 years ago in a stone fireplace at a site in northeastern Jordan have given researchers a delectable surprise: people began making bread, a vital staple food, millennia before they developed agriculture.
No matter how you slice it, the discovery detailed on Monday shows that hunter-gatherers in the Eastern Mediterranean achieved the cultural milestone of bread-making far earlier than previously known, more than 4,000 years before plant cultivation took root.
The flatbread, likely unleavened and somewhat resembling pita bread, was fashioned from wild cereals such as barley, einkorn or oats, as well as tubers from an aquatic papyrus relative, that had been ground into flour.
It was made by a culture called the Natufians, who had begun to embrace a sedentary rather than nomadic lifestyle, and was found at a Black Desert archaeological site.
“The presence of bread at a site of this age is exceptional,” said Amaia Arranz-Otaegui, a University of Copenhagen postdoctoral researcher in archaeobotany and lead author of the research published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Arranz-Otaegui said until now the origins of bread had been associated with early farming societies that cultivated cereals and legumes. The previous oldest evidence of bread came from a 9,100-year-old site in Turkey.
“We now have to assess whether there was a relationship between bread production and the origins of agriculture,” Arranz-Otaegui said. “It is possible that bread may have provided an incentive for people to take up plant cultivation and farming, if it became a desirable or much-sought-after food.”
University of Copenhagen archaeologist and study co-author Tobias Richter pointed to the nutritional implications of adding bread to the diet. “Bread provides us with an important source of carbohydrates and nutrients, including B vitamins, iron and magnesium, as well as fiber,” Richter said.
Abundant evidence from the site indicated the Natufians had a meat- and plant-based diet. The round floor fireplaces, made from flat basalt stones and measuring about a yard (meter) in diameter, were located in the middle of huts.
Arranz-Otaegui said the researchers have begun the process of trying to reproduce the bread, and succeeded in making flour from the type of tubers used in the prehistoric recipe. But it might have been an acquired taste.
“The taste of the tubers,” Arranz-Otaegui said, “is quite gritty and salty. But it is a bit sweet as well.”