Palestinian Women Can!
By Nariman Othman
The women’s employment rate in Palestine is one of the lowest in the region. Anera’s Women Can program will help to change that by focusing on enabling economic independence for Palestinian women.
I am currently the project coordinator, leading the implementation of the Women Can program, funded by Islamic Relief USA. Women Can provides material assistance, training and mentoring to women launching small enterprises in the West Bank.
My dedication to this project comes from my heart. I conduct surveys of women we are considering for the program, set up trainings and mentoring, and organize the delivery of equipment and materials for the women’s initiatives. I also facilitate communications with the local village councils, the Ministry of Social Development and our local partners and draft reports on the program.
In this program we want to support women-headed households, especially women responsible for providing for orphans, disabled family members, larger families and families with very low monthly income.
I begin by asking potential candidates about what is going on in their lives and what they want to accomplish. Each woman has her own project appropriate to her circumstances and what she can do. I am fortunate to have a background in sociology and psychology which is useful in these conversations.
In this pilot version of the program we will work with 100 women in the Nablus and Qalqilya areas, empowering them to start or develop their own enterprises.
Over the course of four days, the trainings cover project planning, marketing and selling. We customize the curriculum to match each group’s education level.
During our visits we see a lot of women with different cultural beliefs. Although I’m a Palestinian woman, it was a surprise for me. Each village is different. Education levels vary from village to village and every village has distinct cultural attitudes and ideas about society.
Each woman’s project is different. They range from bakeries and sweets shops to sheep farming. Anera will buy the equipment necessary for each enterprise. We are now at the phase where we are beginning to deliver equipment and supplies to the first group of participants.
There are a lot of field visits that inspire me as a woman. Each woman has her own story that you could write a book about.
I have met women while working on this program who will stick in my mind and my heart forever.
It is a privilege to help them. They really need it. And they are the lucky ones! There are so many women who need similar assistance. Inshallah this project will succeed and we can expand it to include more women in other marginalized areas.
Some of the enterprises will take time to earn income, for instance the sheep and goats. The bakeries and patisseries, on the other hand, will see income immediately. Either way each woman will have her own project that will support her family without the need of help from somebody else.
It’s not just about the economic support. It is about the psychological support. I wish I had had somebody to listen to me and to provide encouragement when I found myself alone with children to care for. Someone to support me psychologically. Both kinds of support are really important for human beings to succeed.
As the saying goes, we don’t want to give them fish, we want to teach them how to fish. This is the aim of the project and why it will be sustainable long after we are no longer working with the women.