"I said goodbye to the shy, lonely Kawthar."
For as long as she could remember, Kawthar wanted to break out of her shell of shyness. When she was young and single, she depended a great deal on her parents. And when she got married, she shifted to relying heavily on her husband.
When her husband, a Palestinian taxi driver, died a few years ago, he left Kawthar without any savings or property — and without anyone to depend on. Shy, far from independent, and a stranger to socializing and making friends, the Qarawat Bani Zeid resident struggled to make ends meet for her and her three children.
In the Palestinian village 13 miles northwest of Ramallah, Kawthar remained an isolated introvert for many years. “Ever since I moved to this village, a little over 15 years ago, I made no friends and just kept to myself,” the single mother tells us while flashing an infectious smile and finishing a transaction with a young man, who has become a regular customer.
“Ever since I moved to this village, a little over 15 years ago, I made no friends and just kept to myself.”
One day, Kawthar’s local village council informed her that Anera, with funding from Islamic Relief USA, was seeking single mothers to participate in a training that would cover women's empowerment and technical topics like business and financial management, and team-building sessions. Feeling self-conscious about all of the interpersonal interaction involved in attending a training, she politely declined.
“I am very mousy and never took a training before. I was scared about going,” she tells us. However, Anera and the Qarawat Bani Zeid council would not take ‘no’ for answer.
“I was informed that other fainthearted women and single mothers like myself would be taking part,” Kawthar says. “And that was the moment I said goodbye to the shy, lonely Kawthar." She calls the moment she finally got the courage to go as "the turning point in my life."
In the weeks and months that followed, Kawthar broke out of her shell. Her transformation into someone who enjoyed social interaction was so dramatic that people began calling her the Palestinian butterfly. Through Women Can, she opened a convenience store with products Anera provided.
“Who would have ever thought the shy, reserved Kawthar who barely used to go out is now taking care of her children, is strong, and, more than anything else, is finally independent? Anera truly supported me every step of the way and made me who I am today.”
"Who would have ever thought the shy, reserved Kawthar that barely used to go out is now... finally independent?”
“Shy people need a lot of support and encouragement, and that came courtesy of Anera’s Women Can program,” she says. Funded by Islamic Relief USA, the program supports Palestinian women-headed families in the West Bank and Gaza.
Based on the circumstances and business needs of each woman, Anera provides support by contracting local suppliers and assisting in the procurement and installation of equipment needed for each woman’s business venture.
Kawthar considers herself a “transformed individual,” who went to the training with no initiative and lost in her own shoes, but emerged with a business idea that now allows her to put food on the table. Now that she's gotten started, her ambitions aren't stopping with what she's already achieved. She is already talking about opening up a much larger supermarket in the very near future.
“A lot of support and encouragement is needed when you are a shy person."
The views expressed herein are those of Anera and shall not, in any way whatsoever, be construed to reflect the official opinion of IRUSA, its Islamic Relief affiliates, or its donors.