Every day, a beautiful smell of citrus fills the Qabalan Women’s Cooperative in northern West Bank.
Women carefully line up dozens of bottles of concentrated lemon juice on the cooperative’s shelves.
Established in 2006, the cooperative now consists of 85 members and seven employees. Their produce varies from embroidery to soap. They have their own grocery shop and kitchen where healthy pastries and sandwiches are prepared daily and sold to village residents and school children at two of the cooperative-owned cafeterias.
“This is where the women of the village come to shop for groceries and large meals are prepared upon request for special occasions like weddings and celebrations,” said Nadia Ibrahim, a founder and Manager of the cooperative.
The profits are distributed equally among cooperative members, but the members believe the real benefit is their ability to reach out to women in need and help them stand on their own feet.
“Our vision is to help the women become productive and strong, to be independent and capable of making their own choices,” says Nadia.
Myassar Atiyyeh is in her late forties. She says her life goal is to properly educate her children and watch them graduate from university. Recently widowed, Myassar now provides for nine children, four of whom are university students.
“Everyone encouraged me to work here and this job really has helped me provide for my family. My older children are so busy at university they do not have time to work most of the year,” explained Myassar, “so they mainly depend on me to pay for their commute and fees.”
Siham Ahmad is a full-time employee of the cooperative. “It’s a beautiful feeling,” she said with a broad smile. “We are proud of producing something for our benefit and also the benefit of so many other people.”
For decades ANERA has supported agricultural cooperatives across the West Bank. Recently, with funding from USAID, ANERA purchased product from the Qalaban’s Women’s Cooperative to be included in a relief shipment going to Gaza.