Investing in Women: Strengthening Communities Across Palestine, Lebanon & Jordan

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“No society can be just, and no human or economic development even-spread and sustainable if women, who represent half of the population, are left behind, if their needs and aspirations are not addressed.”

Dr. Lamis Abu-Nahleh

This statement, which first appeared in the fall 1996 issue of Anera News, comes from Dr. Lamis Abu-Nahleh, a founder of the Birzeit University women’s studies program. Its message remains as relevant as ever nearly 25 years later.

Women are a powerful force in the communities Anera serves. They are mothers and caretakers. They are breadwinners and providers. They are advocates for positive change. They are leaders in their fields and role models for young people. We know this to be true based on 52 years of experience working with strong and inspiring women who have been at the heart of many of our program successes.

On International Women’s Day Anera celebrates women. Our projects across Palestine, Lebanon, and Jordan open doors for women and girls through education, health and development programs. When women have access to educational and economic opportunities, they invest in their communities and improve the lives of everyone around them. Support from Anera’s community of donors helps them achieve that goal.

Good community health begins at home…

Women are the primary health caregivers for the family. This is particularly true in areas where doctors are not readily available or affordable. The more that women understand and can take care of their own health needs, the better equipped they are to take care of their grandparents, siblings, husbands, sons and daughters. Through learning actionable practices and accessing health care supplies, women are able to take control and prevent common problems like communicable infections, parasites and nutrition deficiencies.

Education opens opportunities…

Women are increasingly in the majority when it comes to seeking higher education. However, they often don’t share the same advantages as their male colleagues. Vocational training programs offer them marketable skills that give them a competitive edge. Anera is especially concerned with providing teachers the knowledge and skills they need to bring out the best from their students.

Investment transforms lives…

More women are major breadwinners, whether they are refugees in Lebanon or heads of impoverished families in Gaza where men cannot find jobs. Through economic development programs, like financial and material assistance to help women launch small businesses, women are empowered and the economic benefits of their endeavors naturally follow for everyone around them.

Partnerships make it all possible…

A leader in her own right, Nariman Othman is Anera’s Women Can project coordinator. She interviews women who are leaders in their community to consider for the program.

Anera partners with women who are leaders in their communities. They haven’t walked away. They are there every day investing their time, energy, creativity, their hearts and sometimes even their own limited resources. They set the example and improve the well-being of their expanded family – the men, women and children who benefit from their generosity.

Some Anera initiatives benefiting women

Women Can

Anera’s Women Can project empowers heads-of-household Palestinian women to increase their economic autonomy and financial resources. The project is helping 100 West Bank women in the Nablus and Qalqilya areas to start or develop small enterprises, supporting them through training, seed funding, mentorship, and other capacity-building activities. Anera gives preference to women-headed families with orphan children.

Teacher training

The preschool teaching profession in Palestine is 100% staffed by women. Anera’s early childhood development program leads the way in building up this neglected sector and teacher training courses are at the heart of what we do, because a good preschool education rests on teachers’ effectiveness and commitment. Anera’s training is coupled with an intensive mentoring program so teachers are supported as they put to practice the new skills they learn.

Women’s community centers in Palestine

One way Anera helps Palestinian women is by creating spaces for them to gather, learn, and earn an income. We built an entirely new two-story building in Dar Salah, West Bank for the Palestinian Rural Women’s Association, serving as a hub for 300 women. At the Cooperative Society for Saving and Lending women’s center in Beit Hanoun, Gaza, we added a second floor to provide more training and working space. We also installed a hydroponic garden on the roof that is producing fresh, healthy produce for the women and children of the community. 

Women’s cooperatives in Gaza

In the past couple of years, Anera has supported eight cooperatives in Gaza to boost women’s financial independence. Through this initiative, women chefs earn money to support their families, provide free nutritious meals to preschool children (who also benefit from Anera’s early childhood development interventions), and make best use of their cooking skills in kitchens that Anera fully equips with dough mixers, pans, cooking utensils and stoves.

The original version of this article appeared in our summer 2014 newsletter.

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