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WISE II Entrepreneur Profile: Shurooq

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WISE II entrepreneur Shurooq shares how the program helped her grow her stained glass business.

WISE II entrepreneur Shurooq shares how the program helped her grow her stained glass business.

Name of Business: Nawa’em Art

Originally from Nablus, Palestine, Shurooq began creating stained glass home décor as a hobby over 12 years ago. While attending a local handcrafts course, the instructor, impressed with Shurooq’s artistry,began displaying her pieces for sale at the community center. She was thrilled at the prospect of her products generating additional income for her family, but her husband was not. This proved to be the biggest barrier Shurooq encountered on her path to becoming a businesswoman.

Shurooq’s husband rejected the idea and questioned her motivation for participating. He feared that if she pursued this path that she would no longer have time to care for the house and the family. This did not discourage Shurooq; she was insistent and used the rationale that by doing something for herself she would be a happier wife and mother. In turn, this would only affect her family duties in a positive way by providing her with motivation. She proved to be quite convincing and began selling her pieces in 2005 while attending additional classes to further develop her technique. In 2012, Shurooq even received a small loan from the Palestinian Businesswomen’s Association, Asala, to further her business venture.

It took almost 5 years, but now not only does Shurooq’s husband support her business but encourages her to succeed. When Tomorrow’s Youth Organization approached her during Global Entrepreneurship Week in Ramallah, to participate in the WISE II program, her husband was more than supportive.

The WISE II program has opened up new networks for Shurooq to market outside of her community. She understands the need to be distinct from her competition and has begun creating unique home decor products to expand her clientele base. Through the professional development courses provided by the WISE II program, she has learned vital English and IT skills to pitch her business more effectively.  She plans on formally registering her business with the Chamber of Commerce in Nablus upon completing the program.

Shurooq has not only benefitted from the WISE II program professionally but psychologically as well. The program has lifted her spirits and driven her to accomplish her dreams. She loves having a routine that revolves around her and gives her something to look forward to every day. The importance of self-worth that she explained to her husband early on in her career has been instilled in her teenage daughters as well. They are very active in their community and participate in after-school activities in order to empower themselves and others.

-WISE II entrepreneur Shurooq interviewed by Outreach Coordinator Futoon Qadri

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TYO Intern Alumni: Where are They Now?

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Rosie Chapman

I think TYO changed me for good. My experience there gave me confidence in my own abilities and changed the way I saw the world.

Originally from Honiton, England Rosie taught Sports for adolescents, Fitness class as part of The Women’s Group and Professional Competency at An-Najah University as an intern at TYO Nablus in the fall of 2013.

What was your favorite moment/story from your time with TYO? 

My favourite moment from TYO was probably one of the times we played basketball in the children’s sports class. All the kids played together really well and looked so happy the whole time! It was a really satisfying and happy moment for me and the volunteers.

What do you miss most about Nablus?

I miss everyone that I worked with at TYO, all the staff, interns, volunteers, women, children and students – they were all truly amazing!

What have you been up to after leaving Nablus and what are your plans for the future?

At the moment I am studying for my Masters in Gender and International Development at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. After my Masters I am hoping to get a job in women’s rights advocacy in London or maybe in the Middle East.

How do you think TYO affected you personally and professionally?

I think TYO changed me for good. My experience there gave me confidence in my own abilities and changed the way I saw the world. Professionally, it has enriched my studies and has helped me feel able to apply for a wide range of jobs.

Do you have any advice for anyone considering applying for a TYO internship?

I would encourage people to definitely go for it! TYO was one of the best and most worthwhile things I’ve ever done.

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Hear Us Roar!

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Tomorrow’s Youth Organization (TYO) believes that women and girls in the Middle East have the potential to be the dynamic change-makers the region needs to overcome current economic and social challenges. As such, we provide a wide-range of programming for women from Nablus, Tulkarem, Jenin, and their surrounding villages.

Since 2009, TYO has prioritized entrepreneurship programs specifically tailored to the address the needs of women in Northern Palestine. With the support of PalTel Group and Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, we have empowered women entrepreneurs and provided them with the tools and skills needed to grow profitable and sustainable businesses that are scalable and facilitate job creation. Advancing Palestinian Women Entrepreneurs, our current entrepreneurship project, will work alongside forty-five burgeoning and current entrepreneurs to help develop their leadership, critical thinking, and business development skills. Our entrepreneurship work not only lifts up individual entrepreneurs but helps improve the overall economy in the country.

2014 Women's Group participants share a smile with Futoon Qadri, TYO's Outreach Coordinator

2014 Women’s Group participants share a smile with Futoon Qadri, TYO’s Outreach Coordinator

In addition to our entrepreneurship programs, TYO is excitedly gearing up to begin another Women’s Group session which will serve sixty mothers and women from Nablus, many of whose children are in our Child Core Program. The Women’s Group comprises of a comprehensive series of Fitness and Nutrition classes, Beginner’s and Advanced IT class, and an interactive seminars that provide a platform for women to participate in dialogue with experts for improving conditions in health and lifestyle. Throughout the session, the women literally run into class every day ready to learn a new Zumba routine, discuss pertinent health-related topics, or delve into serious conversation guided by local experts. Women rush to class not only because they love the new life skills and expertise they gain but also because they have created a community of peers and friends they are always thrilled to see. Tomorrow’s Youth Organization knows that a great deal of factors contribute to the isolation women in Palestine oftentimes experience and we are proud to help break that isolation while also teaching the women skills we hope will last a lifetime. We can’t wait to begin classes in the Fall and will be sure to report back on the fun times and important lessons learned!

Vanessa, Women’s Empowerment Program Coordinator 

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WISE II Entrepreneur Profile: Sa’eda

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WISE II program participant Sha'eda shares how the program helped increase her confidence as she continues to grow her embroidery business.

WISE II program participant Sha’eda shares how the program helped increase her confidence as she continues to grow her embroidery business.

Business:  Al Marsa Industrial Tatreese

From Beit Leid in Tulkaram, Palestine, Sa’eda, 46, always had a passion for learning. In 1993, she received an Associate’s Degrees in Early Childhood Education in Jordan and went on to receive a Bachelor’s degree in Education from Al Quds’ Open University in 2007. In between earning her two university degrees, Sa’eda worked at a preschool while taking courses in pediatric rehabilitation. She utilizes these skills every summer when she returns to Jordan to work with children at a summer camp.

As a young child, Sa’eda’s mother taught her how to make traditional Palestinian embroidery. This cherished tradition from her childhood is something that she has held on to throughout the years. Although she values the history of embroidery, Sa’eda realized that the times have changed and that traditions should adapt to them. The idea of starting an industrial embroidery business began three years ago when she recognized the market need. A custom designed embroidery piece can take several months if done by hand. By using an industrial machine to produce embroidery, it is quicker, cheaper and has a cleaner finish. Currently Sa’eda operates informally out of her home, producing handmade Palestinian embroidery pieces for friends and family. Once she is able to purchase the necessary machinery to industrially manufacture products, she intends to formally register her business with the Tulkarem Chamber of Commerce.

Sa’eda has been an active member of the Beit Leid community election committee for over a decade. It is through this work that she heard about the WISE II program at Tomorrow’s Youth Organization at the Tulkarem Chamber of Commerce.

Like many other aspiring female entrepreneurs in the region, Sa’eda’s biggest barrier has been gender norms placed on her by society. Her village is not very accepting of professional women and has even tried to shame her husband for allowing her to work. In return, he prevents her from working on her business until all of the household duties are complete. That has not dissuaded Sa’eda from pursuing her dreams; it has just motivated her to work even harder.

The most important tool that she has taken from the WISE II program is her business plan. Other business courses Sa’eda has taken in the past have never focused on the business or financial plan. Through the business development intensives provided by the Small Enterprise Center (SEC), her outlook on marketing has developed and is now able to reach a broader clientele base. Sa’eda realizes the amount of time and effort she must put into her business for it to progress in the right direction. As a result, she has been very proactive by contacting factories and other embroidery businesses in search of machinery to be donated or sold at a low cost.

In the past Sa’eda lacked self-confidencein her business and the ability to market herself, especially in terms of her English speaking skills. Through the business English courses offered in the WISE II program, her level of confidence has increased tremendously. Although her dream of starting an embroidery business that utilizes industrial machinery has yet to become a reality, she believes that the WISE II program will change that.

-WISE II entrepreneur Sa’eda interviewed by Outreach Coordinator Futoon Qadri

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The Road to Tulkarem is Paved in Gold

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Last Saturday I had the pleasure of taking a weekend trip to visit four entrepreneurs from the Women’s Incubation Services for Entrepreneurs II (WISE II) program. In August 2014, Tomorrow’s Youth Organization and PalTel Group Foundation (PGF) launched WISE II, a program that enhances women-led micro and small enterprises in marginalized areas in northern Palestine.

WISE II empowered high-potential Palestinian women through an innovative, holistic, and intensive business incubation. Through skills based training, coaching, and incubation, WISE II was a strategic multi-phase program to build the capabilities, confidence and access to capital for women entrepreneurs in Palestine.

WISE II women pose for a photo during after a productive day of English class.

WISE II women pose for a photo after a productive day of English class.

As a Zahi Khouri Fellow in Spring 2015, I had the honor of accompanying the WISE women through one of the last phases of their entrepreneurship journey by teaching them an intensive lesson of Business IT and Business English. Through that experience I learned that entrepreneurs in Northern Palestine are visionaries who are not afraid of the hard work and the rigor that any small business demands.

I had not seen most of the women since Spring, so decided to dedicate a Saturday to visiting Tulkarem and its surrounding villages. The entrepreneurs and I had an opportunity to enjoy Tulkarem’s gold market, take a walking tour of the city center, and enjoy a delicious meal prepared by one of the women who owns and operates a catering business. We also had an opportunity to discuss the current status of their business, challenges they are facing professionally, as well as upcoming development opportunities through our newest entrepreneurship program, Advancing Palestinian Women Entrepreneurs (APWE).

This trip reminded me that while there is always important work to do inside a workshop, a meeting, or a training, it is equally important to get to know a TYO entrepreneur in her home as a way to show respect, deepen a burgeoning relationship, and create trust. I look forward to continuing to work alongside the women when APWE trainings begin and I eagerly await another trip to Tulkarem in the coming months.

Vanessa, Women’s Empowerment Program Coordinator

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WISE II Entrepreneur Profile: Rola

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WISE II entrepreneur Rola shares her story of her growing honey business and the help WISE II offered her in taking it to the next level.

WISE II entrepreneur Rola shares her story of her growing honey business and the help WISE II offered her in taking it to the next level.

Business: Al Jana’ Rayan (Paradise Honey)

For the past 17 years, Rola from Tulkarem, Palestine has been a devoted mother and wife. In 2012, she realized that her monotonous routine was erasing who she was as a person. That is when she decided it was time to make a change and focus on herself. Rola came up with the concept of producing all-natural honey. To her, the queen bee metaphorically represents Rola’s belief of a woman’s role in life. She is the one in charge of the beehive and without her it would cease to survive and thrive on its own.

As a homemaker, Rola felt that time-management continues to be the biggest barrier in her success as a businesswoman.  Both of these responsibilities are full time jobs and there are periods when she lacks motivation and simply wants to give up. Luckily, she has a supportive husband that inspires her at moments when she is physically and emotionally exhausted.

The main obstacle that Rola had to overcome in order to turn her dream into a reality was basic logistics. Her home did not possess a lot of outdoor space, and with small children, safety was a concern. In addition, she didn’t have the slightest clue on how to make honey. After tirelessly searching for a course on producing honey, she found one with Agricultural Relief in Tulkarem. Rola, who had saved money from birthdays and holidays over the years, purchased two beehives, which have now blossomed into 23. With the help of her neighbor she was able to store them on their land. As she started to produce profits from selling the honey, she repaid her neighbor’s favor by employing her.

Rola heard about the WISE II program at Tomorrow’s Youth Organization from the Chamber of Commerce in Tulkarem. The orientation session held at the TYO center in Nablus was the first time she travelled outside of Tulkarem without her husband or an adult family member. In order to feel safe and secure, Rola brought along her 10 year old son.  Now, she has gained the self-confidence to travel alone all over the West Bank to attend exhibitions and seminars related to her business. Through the WISE II program, Rola has learned vital marketing skills for her business.  Through networking at events, she is now considering expanding her profession to include flower production.

-WISE II Entrepreneur Rola interviewed by Outreach Coordinator Futoon Qadri

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TYO’s Karate Kids!

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This summer, 9-14 year old children in our Summer Camp have had the opportunity to experience a number of different sports and activities – volleyball, drama, singing lessons, soccer, and dabke, as well as many art, critical thinking, and literacy activities emphasizing a sense of community and communication skills.

By far one of the greatest hits of Summer Camp has been our weekly Karate classes with trainers from a local Nablus martial arts center. Last week, we interviewed one of the trainers who holds 15 international medals in Karate – the highest in Palestine – and has welcomed trainers from around the world to teach in Nablus.

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Nine- and ten- year-old kids in TYO’s 2015 Summer Camp have their first Karate class of the session.

Below, he shares the greatest misconceptions about Karate, the importance of equal gender participation, and how the martial art ties into TYO’s curriculum on community, self-esteem, and respect.

What do you see as the greatest misconception about Karate?

The greatest misconception our community has about Karate is that it is about violence and power, that a master of Karate is someone who is physically strong and intimidating. That idea originates not from the community and grassroots level, but rather from the trainers themselves who misuse Karate to demonstrate their power and strength to others. Unfortunately, the community has internalized that. Many parents push their kids to attend classes for all of the wrong reasons; they want their kids to be Karate “stars,” when really Karate is first and foremost about teaching self-discipline and positive personality traits.

We also have parents who worry that Karate will distract their kids from academics; they fail to see that the self-discipline Karate teaches actually helps their children do better in school. In my twenty years of teaching Karate, I have seen 95% of my students not only do well in school, but also largely outperform their peers.

The word “Karate” means discipline through respect – and we mean ‘respect’ not in a hierarchical way,  but rather respect for all, young and old and regardless of their experience level. For me, our job in the community goes far beyond teaching the skills of Karate to our kids – it is also about making a change in the community through Karate’s basic principles of self-discipline and respect.

Do you face any challenges involving girls in your Karate classes?

Unfortunately, we face a lot of discrimination in our community against girls’ participation in Karate. I have heard too many parents say that girls will lose their femininity – both physically and in their personalities – through learning Karate. To me, girls are our most important target group; 60% of our students in Nablus are girls, and we teach Karate as both a mental and physical defense mechanism for the day-to-day harassment and violence these girls face.

Part of our job is also “walking the walk.” I hold 15 international medals in Karate, and so does my sister; we have taken that journey one hundred percent together. I know that I cannot teach girls about their equal right to participate, and I cannot teach boys equality and acceptance, if my sister is not by my side living that principle.

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Hala and Bara’a practice a self-defense move together.

We work with disadvantaged youth in Nablus, both from the city and refugee camps, to build their self-esteem, sense of community, and the communication skills they need to effect change in their communities. How can Karate benefit that target group and help us achieve those goals?

The basic answer is that Karate teaches self-confidence, self-control, and problem-solving in crisis situations, all of which are important for adolescents growing up in disadvantaged and conflict-affected areas.

But there are two things I will add from my personal experience teaching Karate in Nablus. One – Since Karate is about teaching self-worth and self-discipline, we must start early in a child’s life, far before adolescence. That is when you can have the biggest positive impact. Two – hundreds of children have passed through our Karate center, and the one thing they all seek is love and validation from adults. As Karate trainers in Nablus, we receive substantial training in what we call “hug training” – the metaphorical “hug”  is about us, as adults, building a positive relationship with our trainees. For girls, the “hug” is most often about validating their ideas and affirming their value and importance as individuals. I have had a number of female trainees tell me that their families tell them to just follow directions, and Karate is the first time they have been asked to think. While that says a lot about how far we need to go as a community, it reminds me that again, our role is much more than just teaching Karate’s martial techniques; it is about making a change in our community’s mentality.

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Fourteen-year-old Hadeel and her classmates perfecting their Karate technique.

– Niralee, TYO Core Child Program Manager; interviewed by Suhad, TYO Psychosocial Program Manager

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Youth in Focus: An Interview with Scholarship Recipient Julia Awwad

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Julia Awwad, a volunteer in TYO’s Spring 2015 Core Child Program session and our current Summer Camp, is the winner of this year’s University Scholarship Competition. Hear her thoughts on youth employability and women’s empowerment.

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Julia Awwad, along with the President of the Nablus branch of Al Quds Open University Dr. Youssef Diab and TYO Country Director Humaira Wakili.

What is your reaction to receiving this scholarship?

I cannot express how happy I am. The news of this scholarship came at just the right time. My financial situation has been extremely difficult and unpredictable, particularly during the last few years while I have been in college.

Yesterday, as soon as I received the scholarship, the first person I told was my father, who until now has paid for my college education. I always feel guilty because money is tight, and I have many younger brothers and sisters who I know need our family’s money because they are not old enough to work, and they need to stay in school. To add to that, my eleven-year-old brother has a serious medical problem that costs so much in terms of doctor visits and expensive surgeries. I put my brothers and sisters’ health and education first, but at the same time I know how important it is that I continue my higher education. This scholarship has taken a huge weight off of my mind not to worry about how I am going to pay for each university credit, and put that focus towards my studies and future goals.

How will this scholarship help you in achieving your educational goals?

This scholarship has given me the freedom to think long term. Now, my mind is not occupied with paying for each university credit, and knowing that I will be able to finish my degree helps me look past that to future goals. After completing my bachelor’s degree in social work, I am  thinking about pursuing a master’s in psychology, maybe even applying to strong master’s programs outside of Palestine. All I need to do is pull together the funds, make my plan, and go for it.

What do you feel you have gained by volunteering at TYO? What skills did you gain from your experience at TYO that you think will help you when you graduate and look for a job?

When I enter TYO, I feel just like one of our kids: happy, enjoying life, and excited about learning. I forget many of the hardships I have faced in my own life and at home – violence, the political situation, financial and other hardships at home, the list goes on. But at TYO, all of that is behind me and I can focus on my strengths.

Volunteering at TYO has also made me more confident in my ability to find work and succeed professionally. I have learned how to be calm, how to pull together my thoughts before speaking, and how to lead. In the past six months, I have worked with children ages 4-5 and teenagers 13-14 years old. The amount I have learned between those two experiences is a university degree in and of itself! Working with children really teaches you anything else you will have to do in life – in work, as a parent, anything.

TYO believes in women’s empowerment and equality. Has your volunteer experience in any way changed your opinion about your role as a woman in your community?

Since I was very young, maybe 5 years old, I always believed in the importance of women in our community, and how undervalued our power is. I never accepted society’s restrictive view of women, but I was also in outlier in the way I thought. When I came to TYO, I met an entire community who saw women’s empowerment and equality the way I do. I met Humaira and Suhad, and saw how far confidence has taken both of them. Meeting the women who work at TYO taught me that women may make up half of society, but our power to make a change is far greater than just half. It made me ask, “Why can’t we do the same? Why not? We are all smart and strong, so we can be just like that.” With TYO’s community, I gained more confidence, and began to see that I could do more than just being different as an individual in my community; I can also actively change how our community views women, and especially through educating children.

– Interviewed by Niralee, TYO Core Child Program Manager

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Palestinian Women Break Through the Glass Ceiling of Lending Practices

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Advancing Palestinian Women Entrepreneurs (APWE) is TYO’s fifth entrepreneurship program that seeks to help women in Northern Palestine establish or expand their micro-businesses. TYO provides women with the opportunity to attend psychological and social trainings with TYO’s in-house psychologist; develop or refine their business plans with Ramallah-based Small Enterprise Center (SEC); participate in a three-week business English and IT intensive; and create their marketing materials after working with a branding and marketing expert.

While APWE will provide a plethora of trainings for their existing and budding entrepreneurs, there is a larger societal issue TYO seeks to address and help solve in order for all female entrepreneurship to thrive. While the majority of the Palestinian economy is comprised of small and medium enterprises, female entrepreneurship is significantly low. Many factors contribute to low female entrepreneurship like conservative societal and banking practices limiting women’s access to financial services.

Bank of Palestine manager account manager answers a financial question from Fathia.

Bank of Palestine account manager answers a financial question from Fathia.

According to July 31, 2015 article from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, “Providing women with access to banks — giving them a safe place to save money, acquire credit and obtain insurance — allows them to gain better control over their lives and the lives of their families. Indeed…when women in the developing world are able to participate in economic decisions, relationships within their homes become more equitable and they invest more in their children’s health and education. Over time, this research shows, this contributes to the cycle of poverty alleviation.”

Many women in Palestine face challenges borrowing money from banks due to most banks’ collateral requirements. TYO believes it is important for steps to be taken for women to have easier access to financial services that will assist them in expanding their business. TYO and the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women are in the process of hiring a research consultant to determine the many restrictions women face in accessing financial services and start-up capital. The results of this study can be utilized to advocate to banks and other stakeholders to shift the discriminatory lending practices that have historically prohibited women in Palestine from acquiring loans.

TYO knows that women in Northern Palestine have the vision, determination, and grit to successfully start and maintain their businesses. We also know that these women will be most apt to thrive in a society that supports their efforts to access the financial services and start-up capital they need to soar.

– Women’s Empowerment Program Manager, Vanessa

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WISE II Entrepreneur Profile: Reema

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Entrepreneur Reema shares how TYO's WISE II program helped her see the endless possibilities in herself.

Entrepreneur Reema shares how TYO’s WISE II program helped her see the endless possibilities in herself.

Business: Yaboos Soap

Originally from Kufor Zabad, a village outside of Tulkarem, Palestine, Reema has always been a working professional. Throughout her academic career and after graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in History from Al Quds Open University in 2012, she held various office jobs. This was not something that she enjoyed or saw herself doing as a career.

Reema was constantly thinking of different ways to become independent and be her own boss. After attending a few courses at a local women’s community center, she fell in love with the idea of making soap. Many of the supplies necessary for production such as herbs, olive oil, and honey were bountiful in her village. In 2013, after receiving a small grant from the Ma’an Development Center, Reema finally took the next step and started producing soap. She is still in the early phases of her business, selling small amounts at the local market, and plans to register with the Tulkarem Chamber of Commerce in the near future.

Reema heard about the WISE II program at Tomorrow’s Youth Organization from the Chamber of Commerce last year but was a little apprehensive at first. In the past, Reema has taken several business related seminars but felt they were not comprehensive in nature. After learning that the program expanded over a year and focused on various components of a successful business, she decided to give it a chance.

When she first started her business, Reema’s biggest challenge was time-management. Through business developments courses offered by the WISE II program, she has broken through that barrier and so much more. She was able to network with individuals, institutions and attend exhibitions that she would have otherwise not known about. Reema has learned various tricks of the trade from professionals in the soap industry and now incorporates them into her own in order to improve her products.

Gender norms placed on Reema by society is a persistent barrier she must confront as a businesswoman in Palestine. Family members constantly pressure herwhenever she leaves her village for business-related purposes. For many in her community, the labor market is perceived as being an all boys’ club. This gender norm is something that she is continuously trying to change within her family and the community.

Reema never lacked motivation but rather the proper resources to make her dream into a reality. Not only does Reema have more self-confidence in the success of her business but in herself as well.  She plans to nominate herself for the local municipality and one day hopes to be the mayor of her village.

-WISE II Entrepreneur Reema interviewed by Outreach Coordinator Futoon Qadri

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