Theirworld scholarship lets Baraah dream big and help other women in Lebanon

Baraah Mahmassani is set to graduate with an MBA degree (Theirworld/Adrian Hartrick)

Baraah Mahmassani is close to fulfilling her dream of helping to empower women in her community in Lebanon.  

Two years ago, she was among a group who received a scholarship offered by Theirworld and Heriot-Watt University’s Edinburgh Business School to refugees and disadvantaged Lebanese nationals living in Lebanon. Now she is set to graduate with a Master of Business Administration degree. 

While raising her children, Baraah had been active with organisations working with refugees and on education projects. She also founded an education theatre centre for children. Here she tells us about her MBA journey over the past two years and her plans for the future. 

Another 20 people will have the same opportunity as Baraah, with Theirworld and Edinburgh Business School teaming up again to offer a new round of MBA scholarships. The programme begins next month. 

Why did you decide to apply to the MBA programme?

A big dream begins with small steps, along with determined efforts. I had this dream in mind for many years: earn a higher education degree and upgrade my career profile.  

But I applied for the MBA because, as a woman living in the Middle East, I have very clear insights of both women’s challenges and needs. Young mothers and mothers-to be are among the most in need of support and guidance. There is still a wide gap between the instant support given and the extended follow-up needed that empowers women and makes them more resilient.  

My long-term plan is to start up a business that feeds into this role and gives me back a sustainable source of living. 

What did you find the most valuable part of the programme?

Today, as I am writing this article, I am preparing for my final, ninth course of the MBA scholarship at Edinburgh Business School. At the beginning, when I started studying for this programme, I was ambitious about the knowledge I will acquire at the end.  

I appreciated that the programme is designed to develop students’ critical thinking as well as the ability to apply their acquired knowledge in real business life. Adapting to its independent learning model was a life-changing experience.  

While I was moving from one course to the next, I was learning valuable lessons. I learned that the more you are able to visualise your goal, the more power you will gain to succeed in difficult circumstances. Moreover, the resourceful university database reached through the students’ portal was very useful. 

What courses have you enjoyed the most?

Entrepreneurship creativity and venturing courses. Despite the fact this programme is independent-based education, the way these two courses were designed is very practical and interactive.   

At this point I started shaping up my dream. I became able to see my business as if it is real when I completed the feasibility study required by the course.   

What was it like studying for the MBA in the challenging Lebanese context?

I live in Beirut. During the two years, the city was hit by a devastating explosion, while the country was already suffering a political and economic unrest. Students had to study despite the lack of electricity and the deterioration of all basic services.  

But there was no way people could give up on their future. The hope for a better tomorrow was the fuel to keep up the hard work. I also learned that when things get very hard, make short-term plans and stick to them no matter what happens. 

What are your plans after you've completed the course?

Once my country begins to recover, I will be able to start up my business. And I will be happy to extend the support given to me to benefit many women in my community. 

What message would you send to world leaders about investing in education?

Education enables people to have a more resilient mindset, I believe. The act of learning develops critical thinking, reasoning and problem-solving. These tools are very important, as families with educated parents are able to seek information from proper sources and are much more aware of their children’s welfare.  

Therefore, I would like world leaders to continue to raise awareness among societies about the importance of education at all age levels and to link knowledge with enhanced quality of living – making the bond between the two concepts much clearer and directly related. 

Our new partners

Theirworld has announced a partnership with Mosaik Education to expand and test new models to help refugees access higher education in Jordan and Lebanon. Mosaik provides workshops, peer-to-peer guidance and English classes to refugees.