Photo of the Day: FWEN Training

TYO’s new project, “Fostering Women Entrepreneurs,” sponsored by the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women is in full swing this week as it begins its second training week. Thursday, January 28, marked the official start of this initiative, which engages 25 unemployed female university graduates in an intensive training in business skills and entrepreneurialism. Each participant will create a business plan, 4-6 of which will be incubated by TYO. Our project model engages youth as resourceful catalysts not only for their own livelihoods, but also for their communities’ well-being. You can learn more from the opening of the workshop (in English) here, and participants’ presentations (in Arabic) here.

Happy New Year!

And…we’re back! Happy 2010, everyone!

Today, the Nablus staff returned to the Center after a rejuvenating winter holiday. We are very busy planning for several programs and projects, including our Spring 2010 Session! Things you’ve enjoyed reading about like the International Internship Program, our partnership with the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women and Triple Exposure took large strides in the last weeks of our fall session. (PS: Have you seen the first Triple Exposure mural, yet? We love it!) And, new programs like the UNAoC youth project were announced.

Stay tuned right here for program updates, photos of the day, Kelsey’s Crafts and early childhood education and development analysis.

It is shaping up to be a very exciting new year!


Chelsey is the Program Coordinator at TYO Nablus.

President Clinton endorses TYO’s women’s entrepreneurialism initiative

CGI sealFollowing our fabulous experience at CGI 2009 in New York last month, we were happy to hear from the CGI folks again today! They have made available an official seal of approval for all Commitment Makers in good standing (at left). They’ll also send a certificate signed by President Clinton that we will proudly display in the entrance of our Nablus Center, next to our other commitment certificate from CGI 2007!

In the meantime, we can confidently say that our commitment is in very good standing – we’re interviewing for Project Managers on Wednesday for the women’s economic empowerment initiative that we’ve developed in cooperation with the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women. The Small Enterprise Center of Ramallah is the local technical partner, and has generously agreed to help out from the very first stages of project development and recruitment.

Another great development on this front this week was learning of the Entrepreneurial Finance Lab within Harvard’s Center for International Development from Henriette Kolb, Director of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women. The team at Harvard is studying ways to remedy the under-utilized economic potential of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in developing countries. This group at Harvard, as well as Mrs. Blair and her Foundation, see SMEs as an essential ingredient for fighting poverty, in different ways from microfinance initiaitives or global expansion of Fortune 500 companies. Harvard’s site provides a comprehensive and lucid description of the issue, as well as innovative and compelling solutions that they are developing, including using psychometric tests to evaluate loan applications!

Come visit us in Nablus to see the CGI certificates in person, and more importantly, check out this exciting new project to promote women as innovative and potent economic engines in their community!

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Mrs. Cherie Blair talks about our Partnership

Mrs. Cherie Blair, Founder of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women is interviewed by Steve Clemons of the New America Foundation and Washington Note at the Clinton Global Initiative 2009 in New York. She addresses the issue of women’s economic empowerment in the West Bank, and a new initiative that her Foundation is pursuing in partnership with Tomorrow’s Youth Organization, which was founded by fellow CGI member Hani Masri.

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TYO at Clinton Global Initiative 2009

TYO’s second experience at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York was even more productive than the first! Not only did we have huge progress to report on our first commitment, we announced an exciting new commitment in cooperation with the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women. We are eager to share our experience with you – for a more complete overview of panels and working sessions, check out our Twitter feed from last week! In the meantime, here are some highlights.

President Obama’s made for a great opening, but the best part of the conference for us was the focus on Girls and Women, which began with dinner that evening. The speakers were great, as well as tablemates, including partner, Henriette Kolb (Director of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women), inspiring champion of businesswomen in Cameroon Kah Walla, and a Colombian champion of early childhood education.

Hani & Henriette

Hani & Henriette

After an evening on the town, we were up early on Wednesday for the plenary on Girls and Women during which Maria Eitel introduced our new commitment. See Henriette and TYO founder, Hani Masri, on stage live or just a snapshot! A great discussion followed – watch the whole video for the hope-inspiring consensus among these in-the-know folks that we may be on the verge of a tipping point regarding the treatment of and investment in girls and women, pointed out by Melanne Verveer.

CGI staff did an awesome job of organizing Action Networks throughout the conference in order to facilitate more concentrated discussion among members with shared interests. Both the Women’s Empowerment and Investing in Girls sessions were enlightening and inspiring. Perhaps one of the most valuable aspects of participating in CGI is being exposed to the caliber of work that is being done in each field represented. One cannot help but come away energized and motivated to learn from the best.

Thursday was no less exciting for TYO. We met up with Cherie Blair and Henriette in time for a Human Capital panel about the twenty-first century workforce, after which, we were to sign the legal agreement to formalize our cooperation. The panel was expertly moderated by Gwen Ifill, and included notable speakers like Quincy Jones, Luis Moreno and John Hope Bryant. The panel embodied CGI’s pervasive feeling of being among friends. Moreno, President of the Inter American Development Bank, knew of our Nablus project, which he cited in his comments. Ifill later cold-called Cherie Blair to talk a bit about our project, which reflects the meeting’s focus on women and girls as well as the strategic Middle East region. Mrs. Blair presented an impressively eloquent overview of the project, her visit to Nablus last May, and her commitment to women’s economic empowerment. We’ll share the video here as soon as we get it from CGI’s media office.

Thursday night’s awards dinner was dynamic, authentic and truly heartwarming, from Usher to President Kagame to Ben Stiller to Dr. Rola Dashti to Quincy Jones to Ruchira Gupta!

Finally, the last day was no less exhilarating for TYO: the gorgeous video produced by Students of the World aired in two breakout sessions. And as well as wrapping up the week’s events eloquently as ever, President Clinton commended the work that we are doing with the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, and quoted Cherie Blair:

access to finance should be viewed as a human right as much as education and health if you really want to elevate the status of women in the world.

What a week! Now, back to work – we have a lot to live up to!

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PR-Canada: Clinton Global Initiative Members Cherie Blair and Hani Masri Collaborate to Support Women Entrepreneurs

Cherie Blair, Founder of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, and Hani Masri, a Palestinian American businessman and Founder of Tomorrow’s Youth Organization, launched a project that promotes economic empowerment for women in at-risk communities in the West Bank.

Read the full story on their site.

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Maan News: Cherie Blair supports women’s project in West Bank

Ma’an – Cherie Blair, founder of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women and wife of the former UK prime minister, and Hani Al-Masri, a Palestinian-American businessman and founder of Tomorrow’s Youth Organization, on Friday launched a project that promotes economic empowerment for women in at-risk communities in the West Bank.

Read the entire article here.

Clinton Global Initiative 2009

I’ve just arrived in New York for the Fifth Annual Clinton Global Initiative, TYO’s second CGI conference. Although the events don’t officially begin until Tuesday afternoon, the buzz is already tangible! The UN General Assembly also opens tomorrow, so the city is officially overflowing with official visitors.

In its fifth year, CGI seems to be making a lot of changes for the better, toward a greater focus on concrete action and feasible commitments rather than high-profile talking sessions. We are extremely excited for this year’s Action Networks on Investing in Girls and Empowering Women, both topics that are so essential to TYO’s work. They also provide an ideal platform to announce an exciting new project that we have made our Commitment to Action for 2009. Keep your eyes out for full details here in the coming days…

Another highlight of CGI 2009 for TYO will be the broadcast of the video produced by the New York Students of the World team in Nablus in June 2009. We will also post the video here as soon as its available on the web!

Finally, an important aspect of CGI is always the networking: taking advantage of the knowledge and willingness of CGI staff to help members (philanthropists, practitioners, and private sector representatives) connect with each other according to their shared passions and complementary resources. President Obama has confirmed his attendance at Tuesday afternoon’s plenary, which should set an extremely positive tone for the event.

I’ll be tweeting as much as I can about the event and the working sessions – follow along and let me know what you think along the way: .

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Mrs. Cherie Blair visits TYO Nablus

TYO was honored to receive Mrs. Cherie Blair in Nablus on Sunday, 3 May 2009 along with Henriette Kolb, a colleague from the recently founded Cherie Blair Foundation. The visit was Mrs. Blair’s first stop on a 3-day trip to the West Bank. Her time in Nablus included a luncheon with a range of accomplished artisans and businesswomen from Nablus, a tour of the TYO Center, and focus group discussions with TYO volunteers and mothers of TYO participants. The day’s activities were designed to identify needs in Nablus that could be addressed through cooperation between TYO and the Cherie Blair Foundation.

The discussions revealed a great deal about the challenges to doing business in Nablus, as well as the aspirations of the members of each group. Several volunteers presented Mrs. Blair with examples of their handicrafts while explaining how the economic situation in Nablus prevents them from creating viable business ventures here. “There is an appreciation for embroidered handicrafts in our culture, but they cost too much to make and most local women cannot afford to purchase them for their homes,” said Economics major Rawand, 23, from Khallet al-Amood neighborhood in Nablus. “The purchasing power must come from the outside. However, we struggle with how to package and sell our crafts to a foreign market.” Mrs. Blair engaged in a rapid-fire brainstorming session about ways that the volunteers could apply their very advanced handiwork skills to products that would be sought after internationally. The volunteers responded in kind with great enthusiasm about the opportunity to benefit from such guidance.

Other young women spoke of the importance of practical experiences and personal development. “Before volunteering at TYO, I did not have any hope in the future. Here, I found that I have worth. TYO showed me that in order to use my degree and my skills, I must first appreciate myself,” said Aya, 21, from Beit Furik village near Nablus. “Volunteering at TYO showed me that I need more exposure to children in order to better implement my degree.” Aya is currently studying Sociology at An Najah University and hopes to become a social worker for child prisoners in Palestine.

Athare, 22, a Management Information Systems major from Nablus city echoed her peers’ sentiments. “Soon after I started volunteering at TYO, I came to understand the importance of personal development and diverse experiences. If I don’t have practical experiences, I won’t get a job. Opportunities in Nablus are extremely limited and even opportunities abroad, which culturally are seen as only for men, have significantly decreased due to the financial crisis. Now, the majority of the people who graduated in my field last semester are unemployed.”

While the young women were not shy to share the somber economic realities in Nablus with Mrs. Blair, no one present displayed the slightest hint of discouragement. They affirmed the importance of the opportunities that TYO has presented them with to gain practical experience, and the potential of a business incubator or other training program as proposed by the Cherie Blair Foundation. The volunteers emphasized their eagerness to engage their skills to improve their family’s well-being and stability, and that of the community at large.

TYO staff are already hard at work on developing a proposal about ways to operationalize the day’s discussions into a collaborative project between TYO and the Cherie Blair Foundation. We are very grateful for Mrs. Blair’s dedication to the cause of women’s economic empowerment around the world, and her commitment to and interest in the West Bank and Nablus in particular.


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