Ahed’s new clothing shop in Beit Hanoun, Gaza
“It is a life-changing experience to own a business and be able to give charity, rather than rely upon it,” — Ahed
Ahed, 24, is a graduate of the Arabic Language Department at Al Azhar University in Gaza City. Every morning she goes to work at her new shop, which she opened just two months ago.
Ahed is one of over a dozen women who have received grants through Anera’s women’s empowerment program. Since March, Ahed has sold 700NIS (200USD) worth of clothing.
She registered for a grant with Anera’s local partner, the Cooperative Society for Saving and Lending. As soon as she heard the news that she would receive one of the grants, she began preparing a small empty warehouse that her family owned — transforming it into a shop front. Dire economic conditions had meant the family hadn’t been able to utilize the space in the past.
Ahed named her new clothing shop Laila Boutique, after the famous children’s story Laila and the Wolf (as Little Red Riding Hood is known in Arabic). She is proud of her accomplishments.
“It is heartbreaking to ask people for money. It is a life-changing experience to own a business and be able to give charity, rather than rely upon it,” she smiles.
Twice a month, Ahed makes her way to the central Shejaiya market in Gaza City and buys a pile of clothing at wholesale prices. She brings some of her own inventory to exchange. “Trading is fun,” she says. “It was difficult at the beginning. I was afraid of being deceived by the experienced retail traders.”
Fortunately, she was able to get advice from her aunt, who owns her own clothing store in downtown Beit Hanoun. Her aunt told her about the various fabrics to watch out for and which fashions are selling best.
Ahed is still experimenting but she is seeing the most success in selling children’s clothing, cardigans, shirts, and pajamas.
“I only wish I could expand and grow my business bigger. I have used the revenue I have earned thus far to buy more products. When the economy gets better, I want to upgrade the decor of the shop.”
Since the onset of the pandemic, revenues at the shop have declined. With yet another hit to the local economy, people preferred to save money rather than buy clothes. However, Eid, when families celebrate the end of Ramadan by taking their children to purchase new outfits, provided a helpful bump in sales.
Being a female shop owner brings its own challenges in conservative communities in Gaza. However, Ahed is undaunted. “If we get income from our hard work, communities will show respect,” she shrewdly observes.
“Traditions curb a lot of our potentials, but our communities are changing,” she says. “If women are able to work and find acceptance in society, nothing will stop them.”
The grant that Anera provided to Ahed is part of our Gaza Women Economic and Social Empowerment project in northern Gaza. We selected 15 vulnerable women according to the project selection criteria to receive grants ranging in value from $2,000 to $3,000. The women also took part in a management training, offered in cooperation with Anera’s local partner, the Cooperative Society for Saving and Lending (CSSL).