Sharing Knowledge about Women’s Economic Empowerment

On Thursday, January 27, 2009, Tomorrow’s Youth Organization kicked off its Fostering Women Entrepreneurs in Nablus project, in cooperation with the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women and the Small Enterprise Center, with a workshop on women’s projects in the West Bank. Over 35 representatives from different organizations and societies throughout the West Bank attended the “Challenges and Opportunities in Women’s Projects” workshop at the TYO Center in the Zafer al-Masri Foundation Building. Tharwat al Shami of the Portland Trust, and Ali Awartani of the Business Development Centre, also funded by the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, and overseen by the Palestinian Businesswomen’s Forum contributed to the event’s organization and content. We are working on uploading video of the event to our YouTube channel, as Nablus internet connectivity permits!

The workshop provided a chance for this diverse audience to discuss the current status of economic empowerment projects in the West Bank, their successes and failures, and brainstormed elements of successful projects. Participants welcomed this rare opportunity to share their experiences.

Representatives from nonprofits such as DAI, Palestinian Businesswomen’s Associaton (Asala), Dalia, Abraham’s Path Initiative, Economic and Social Development Center of Palestine (ESDC) and many more broke off into working groups. One group identified the lack of expertise in national and international markets as a major obstacle to women’s economic success in the West Bank. Other participants added that a lack of local knowledge about marketing and complicated government procedures causes many women’s projects to fail. Another common shortcoming was that women often establish social associations in response to finite donor funding, which might have a revenue generation element, but are not structured as sustainable, profit-making businesses.

The second group discussed planning in women’s projects. They suggested that too often there isn’t enough planning.  They believe a centralized project database would be very useful. There are many similar projects, but no way to know how many, where they are, or whether or not they have been successful. The participants in this group suggested creating a database with information on all the women’s projects in the West Bank. An Italian donor has been working on just such a database through a project called Tawasul, although nothing has been made public yet.

The third group, which focused on solutions, stressed the need for continuous capacity building and skills training for participants. This group also pointed out that successful projects should always reflect the needs of the participants.

The Palestinian Authority’s Minister of Social Affairs, Ms. Majida al Masri, delivered uplifting remarks at the end of the workshop, which will be uploaded shortly in Arabic to TYO’s YouTube channel. She closed a very productive day with this encouragement:

“I am very enthusiastic about organizations like TYO that offer programs to support women entrepreneurs. These programs offer a good opportunity to women in need.”

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