Economic empowerment for women in Palestine
One of the most vulnerable groups in Palestine is women-headed families, who make up 12% of households in the West Bank and 11% of households in Gaza. As too often happens in conflict zones, the death, separation from, or imprisonment of male adult relatives – fathers, husbands, adult male children – forces the burden of caring for the needs of the entire family onto women.
According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, 87% of women heads of household are not earning an income, explaining the high poverty rates in these families. Women-headed families in the West Bank are especially vulnerable to economic deprivation and social marginalization. Supporting women to generate their own income is the most reliable strategy for enhancing resilience and building a future for their families.
In 2019, Anera launched a program in the West Bank to empower Palestinian women, who are the heads of their households, to increase their economic autonomy and the financial resources of themselves and their families. The program, called Women Can, enables Palestinian women to start or develop small enterprises.
In 2021, Women Can expanded into Gaza to build upon the previous women's empowerment projects in the Strip. As of November 2022, Women Can is in its third installment. Since the beginning of the first Women Can program in September 2019, Anera has provided 346 women livelihood opportunities, and it will reach an additional 95 women by November 2023. On average, 89% of women participants indicated that their income increased due to the small business they started or developed.
Anera supports the women through training, seed funding, business mentorship, and other capacity-building activities. Anera’s Women Can project coordinator visits women, often in their own homes. Through extended conversations, the women feel more comfortable and can begin to generate ideas on projects they can start. Each woman’s project is different. They range from bakeries to sheep farms, greenhouses, beauty salons and tailoring. Anera purchases equipment necessary for each enterprise.
This program is funded by Islamic Relief USA
The women receive at least 28 hours of training tailored to their specific sector and business needs. Training is divided into two stages: first, participants learn business and management basics, including topics such as business planning, budgeting, marketing, price setting, etc. The second phase of training focuses on the technical skills required for each type of business.
Once training is complete, Anera works with local suppliers to procure and help install the equipment required for each enterprise. Anera continues to assist each beneficiary once their enterprise is launched by providing ongoing mentoring from technical specialists. This coaching and mentoring provides important guidance to help participants develop, sustain, and scale their businesses.
As the saying goes, Anera doesn’t want to give them fish, we want to teach them how to fish. This is the aim of the program and why it will be sustainable long after Anera is no longer working with the women. Stories of resilience and success are available to read in Anera’s blog and stories section.