Intern Journal: TYO’s First Women’s Nutrition Class

This summer, fellow intern Megan and I are teaching Women’s Nutrition, a first here at TYO. Megan and I want to show Nabulsi women that healthy food can be easy and delicious. So far we’ve had an amazing turnout and the women have been enthusiastic about the hands-on experience. They love taking their own basic ingredients and supplies and watching them transform into a new dish they can make from start to finish. They’ve already asked if they can bring their daughters, sisters, nieces, cousins, and friends to class with them!

When we asked the women what they wanted from the class, they explained that they wanted to learn not only how to make new types of dishes, but also, how to integrate new flavors into traditional Palestinian foods. Some are interested in making Italian dishes, and others want to try very spicy foods, but above all, they want to teach us how to make some of their favorite dishes. What precious windfall for Megan and I, and a perfect example of the kind of cultural exchange that is so central to the TYO program! I hope they teach us how to make mloukhieh (a stew made with jute leaves) and tabbouleh! Continue reading


FWEN Participant Opens Restaurant in Nablus

Along the sidewalk of An Najah Street, FWEN Participant Nehaya in the company of family and friends, unveiled the sign to her new restaurant, “Matbakh Beit Al-Eleeyah.” While the official grand opening is set for Saturday, March 26, 2011, Nehaya took the opportunity thank all those that supported her throughout the last year, including her friend and fellow FWEN participant Sahar, who designed the new sign.

Nehaya’s restaurant will provide traditional Palestinian food to university students interested in a home-cooked meal in place of more typical student foods such as fast food. As a student at An-Najah University (she graduated in 2007 with a degree in biotechnology), Nehaya noticed a problem that is universal to students around the world: Because they live far away from their families while at school, many students miss home-cooked meals and crave “comfort food.” Though her participation in the FWEN project, Nehaya acquired the leadership and business skills necessary to turn her idea into a reality.

ABOUT FWEN: During the Fifth Annual Clinton Global Initiative (New York, September 2009), the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women and Tomorrow’s Youth Organization (TYO) committed to contribute to women’s economic empowerment in Nablus. The project, Fostering Women Entrepreneurs in Nablus, is now underway at the TYO Center in Nablus and at a satellite location in Lebanon.

Intern Journal: Maloukhieh and M’jedderah and Maqloubeh—Oh my!

I confess: having the women in my computer literacy class create a Microsoft PowerPoint presentation on their most prized Arabic recipes was more than just an exercise in PowerPoint acquisition skills.   Maqloubeh, Mouloukhieh, M’jedderah—all my favorite Middle Eastern dishes coincidentally begin with the letter “m,” often making it impossible for me to distinguish between each one—are just a few of the Arabic meals that have rendered my stomach joyful these past few months in the Middle East.  So, at the start of Tuesday’s computer class I found myself in an auspicious position.  I wanted to learn more about the savory Palestinian dishes that I’ve grown to adore.  For which traditional occasions are these dishes usually cooked? Which ingredients will I need to acquire when I attempt to cook musakhan for family and friends back home? Etc.   What I did not count on, however, was a dozen lunch and dinner invitations by the end of class.  As the women shuffled out of class that morning, each one extended a gracious “Ahlan wa Sahlan” to their homes: “I’ll make you the best maloukhieh you have ever tasted!” and “Come over today after class, drink tea at my home, meet the family, and tell me what you think of my m’jedderah.”

This past Saturday marked the first of what I hope will be many more house visits with community members.  Hanin, the outstanding translator in my computer and fitness classes, invited both Mathilda and me to her home Saturday evening to meet her husband, two sons, and daughter Nadia.  Over meat and cheese-stuffed pastries, sage tea, and Nescafe cake (yes, you read correctly, Nescafe cake…it’s delicious), Hanin shared with us her Palestinian narrative:  she told stories of love and loss, frustration and hope; yes, she and her husband relished the chance to bestow upon us some of that unwavering Palestinian humor—Qaddafi’s peculiar fashion sense was the source of a good laugh or two.   We also learned how connected Hanin and her husband felt to their homeland: given her mastery of the English language and her experience as a translator, she had been offered the opportunity to immigrate to Canada on more than one occasion; each time she resolutely refused, citing her unwillingness to break from her Palestinian roots.

As we realized that three hours had flown by and that the late hour alone beckoned for our return to the TYO Center, we said goodbye to our new friends, toting some Nescafe cake and other goodies for the road and promising Nadia that we would return again soon for some more cross-cultural “girl talk.”

Here’s to many more encounters with delicious Palestinian cuisine in the coming weeks!

– Leila

Leila is an intern at TYO Nablus.

TYO Founder Hani Masri on Larry King Live

Hani Masri, TYO’s Founder and President, appeared on Larry King Live on Sunday night, along with Tony Blair, Salam Fayad, Ehud Barak and Haim Saban. Check out part of the show online here, or read the transcript below.

HANI MASRI, FOUNDER, TOMORROW’S YOUTH ORGANIZATION: That’s a good question, Larry. I mean we have been into this process for 15 years. And nothing has happened so far.

And I think most the majority of the Palestinians and the Israelis want a two-state solution. And — but it is frustrating. The process is very frustrating. That is why I have in the last few years paid attention to children and women in Palestine, and we started the program of helping children and women by establishing TYO.

But I hope that something will happen eventually. But the process is very difficult and very frustrating, but there is no other way except that we do a peace agreement somehow.

KING: Haim Saban, you live in America. What role should the United States be playing? Are you — are you satisfied with the role that the United States is playing with the speech made by Secretary Clinton the other day at your forum?

SABAN: I am — yes, Secretary Clinton opened the Saban Forum in Washington on Friday. And she made a very compelling speech, and I really agree with I would say 99.9 percent of her thoughts as she put them forth.

You asked Hani a minute ago why isn’t peace happening. You know it’s a very complicated area loaded with emotions, and at the moment, you know, the leaders on both sides I think are very well intended but at the same time they need some more encouragement.

And what we’re hoping is that the United States will supply that encouragement and basically the safety net that both the Israelis and the Palestinians need, because there are significant risks involved for both sides, so the United States absolutely can play a very significant role. And I believe that this administration has every intent to do so.

KING: Hani, do you have faith in the American commitment in this?

MASRI: I do, but this is a very difficult question to answer because in the last 15 years different administrations have dealt with this issue. Nothing have happened. In the meantime, we have 60 percent of the Palestinians today are under the age of 16.

There are social and cultural problems. There are issues that have to deal with the occupation and the right of freedom for people, and we must move while the politicians are negotiating. We must move on the issues of helping children, helping the economy of the Palestinians.

It is very difficult situation. Moving on helping women, empowering them to take a role in society, and that is why about a few weeks ago I’ve done this program which we chaired by Quincy Jones and Terry McAuliffe and we honored Cherie Blair, and we honored President Clinton.

And that is to bring awareness to the issues, the main issues, which is while the politicians are talking, we are going to do programs on the ground and expand our programs in terms of helping children and women in the whole — in that whole region.

And as an American I say that it’s my duty. I cannot help in the political process. That’s not my job and we are there to be supportive of both leadership, no question, on both sides want to achieve an agreement. But in the meantime, we have to move on and help and do something on the ground.

KING: All right.

MASRI: And Americans always are givers, and as an American I want to give something of my life to the people of the area.

Full transcript at

Synergy and its best: aspiring female entrepreneurs and their fearless leader

Since the beginning of my stint this summer as an intern for the Fostering Women Entrepreneurs in Nablus project, a day has yet to pass in which I don’t find myself in awe of the dedicated female participants in the program and of the woman who basically runs the show, Fatima Irshaid. Fatima’s family is originally from a village outside of Jenin but she was raised in Nablus and now lives in Ramallah.

Not only does Fatima provide a space in which local Nabulsi women with an entrepreneurial spirit can obtain business development training and access to her pre-existing network, but also a role model for the possibilities of personal and professional growth.

Fatima is their support system and their tough love. In turn, the female participants are her inspiration and, at times, her frustration. Demanding, yet compassionate, she understands where they are coming from and acts accordingly with fairness. As she told me, “Everyone has a story. What matters is how you move on with it.”  Fatima is dedicated to her participants and their futures as female entrepreneurs. They are in turn dedicated to her, the result truly being more than the sum of its parts.

The local staff’s dedication to TYO and to their respective missions within it is admirable and more than visible on a daily basis. Fatima is no exception to this rule and it has been an honor to work with her and the FWEN program.

– Maggie

Maggie is an intern at TYO Nablus.

ABOUT FWEN: During the Fifth Annual Clinton Global Initiative (New York, September 2009), the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women and Tomorrow’s Youth Organization (TYO) committed to contribute to women’s economic empowerment in Nablus. The project, Fostering Women Entrepreneurs in Nablus, is now underway at the TYO Center in Nablus and is planned to begin in Lebanon in the fall of 2010.

Female entrepreneurs present 19 business plans to Steering Committee

On Wednesday, July 21, 2010 twenty-three aspiring, female entrepreneurs presented a total of nineteen business plans to the FWEN Steering Committee marking the end of the Fostering Women Entrepreneurs in Nablus (FWEN) program’s first phase. A few participants also got a special audience with entrepreneur-extraordinaire, Terry McAuliffe!

The business plans, which ranged from developing a local recycling plant to establishing a female-run and operated restaurant, were presented to the FWEN Steering Committee, comprised of eight local business leaders. Each individual or pair had ten minutes to pitch their business, during which time they were evaluated on their delivery, their plan’s viability, their leadership and personal qualities and their economic need.

One participant, so effective, entertaining, and charming in her delivery, left the committee not only impressed by her drive and fortitude, but also cracking up from her stories about the various challenges she faced and overcame, while developing her plan. Clearly, the importance of effective marketing of both one’s business and oneself was a lesson she had learned well.

The first phase of the FWEN project began in January with a workshop under the patronage of the Minister of Social Affairs. In February, TYO identified 28 unemployed female graduated from the Nablus area to take part in an intensive training led by the Small Enterprise Center in Ramallah about basic business skills, management and entrepreneurialism. Since orientation, these participants have met regularly for training and coaching, with program staff and external experts, focused on market research, product development as well as strategy, teambuilding and life skills development. In addition, they have engaged in practical work on idea generation and business plan creation. The presentations given on Wednesday represented months of hard work and idea refinement.

On Tuesday, August 3 the Steering Committee will formally announce the 6-10 business plans that will move on to be incubated in the second phase of the project.

The second phase of the FWEN program begins next month, during which time coaches will work with the creators of these plans to advance their proposals and determine the support (financial, in-kind and supervisory) required for their successful development and implementation as pilot businesses. Other participants will be free to pursue their own business plans, but may not receive any support from project partners beyond the basic training and coaching hours.

Congratulations, to all the FWEN participants on their creative business plans and their progress as developing female entrepreneurs! Nablus is lucky to have you!

Stayed tuned, all, for the final results of the Selection Day process…..!

ABOUT FWEN: During the Fifth Annual Clinton Global Initiative (New York, September 2009), the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women and Tomorrow’s Youth Organization (TYO) committed to contribute to women’s economic empowerment in Nablus. The project, Fostering Women Entrepreneurs in Nablus, is now underway at the TYO Center in Nablus and is planned to begin in Lebanon in the fall of 2010.

FWEN: Meet Aya Mlettat

I met Aya Mlettat during my first summer at TYO in 2009. At the time, she was a volunteer in my girls’ dance class. She would often tell me about her passions and her plans to pursue a professional track that would allow her to help others. She would carry on these conversations about the future with ease while maintaining a watchful eye on the girls and ensuring me that I was doing a good job leading the class.

Her compassion for others and her aspirations for professional success were as clear then as they are now.  However, Aya now emanates confidence and determination to make a life that she wants for herself that was not present a year ago.

Aya has not always known what she truly wants. Before taking part in the Fostering Women’s Entrepreneurship in Nablus program (FWEN), a joint cooperation between TYO and the Cherie Blair Foundation, Aya wasn’t sure how to proceed. She knew she wanted to be successful, independent, and confident, with a “strong personality”, but she did not know how to make those things happen. As she stood, frustrated in place, she explained to me that before FWEN she did not know what steps to take, nor how to take them.  She needed tangible business-style skills and increased confidence — both factors being equally important.

Aya comes from a village outside of Nablus in which the societal rules governing what are appropriate professional pursuits for women are more conservative and limiting than in many neighboring villages or Nablus itself. Farming, for example, is a male dominated profession. Aya, however, decided that goat farming is, in fact, what she wants to do. So this year, despite disapproving looks and several awkward moments, Aya took part in a farming training session only composed of men.

Aya’s mission is to own her own farm and become financially independent. “I feel proud of myself”, she says. “I’m walking step by step in the right way towards my success in starting my own farm, which will be called Solidarity farm.” Aya knows what she wants and is determined to get it.