Azerbaijan – April 26 2021 Planting seeds of hope in Azerbaijan In partnership with the EU Delegation to Azerbaijan, SOS Children’s Villages implemented the Socio-Economic Empowerment and Development of Small-scale vulnerable rural families (SEEDS) in three areas of Azerbaijan. The project aimed to foster economic regeneration and create jobs in 30 communities of the Dashkasan, Goranboy and Samukh districts of the country. Throughout its three years of existence, the project improved the livelihood of some 1,000 women. Thirty production groups, each involving around 30 women, started in each community. These women not only developed their potential, but they also acted as mentors to others: four to five group managers supported members of their community to improve their relevant business skills. “I improved my skills as a confectioner thanks to my group members, and I am now helping other women who supply fresh food to the school canteen in their village,” says Ms. Gulhar Ibrahimova, a project participant from Nizami village in Goranboy. School closures due to COVID-19 affected their sales, says Gulhar, but they look forward to improved business in the long run. Moreover, SEEDS provided the necessary equipment and materials to support joint and individual businesses. Around 60 young community members attended vocational courses to specialize in their field of interest. As a result, these groups started businesses such as poultry raising, pastry and confectionery making, hairdressing, tailoring, and carpet weaving in their communities. In addition to the occupational component, the initiative raised awareness on topics like gender equality, self-esteem, parental skills, childcare and child psychology, adverse impacts of domestic violence, and provided individual consultations to group members and their children. Moreover, women and their children have now better access to important health and social services, such as polyclinics, employment and rehabilitation centres. The project planted the first seeds for a long-term livelihood shift for women, who will then carry the torch further to strengthen the community and prosperity in their villages.