Blog

Innovative Entrepreneurs Pave the Way in Northern Palestine

Tweet

A February 3, 2016 Forbes magazine report highlights the ways in which “women entrepreneurs are creating new and innovative work environments that cater to an evolving and modern workforce.” This sentiment could not ring more true for TYO’s Advancing Palestinian Women Entrepreneurs (APWE) participants who must come up with creative and boundary-breaking ways to maintain successful businesses given the political context in which they work. As APWE wraps up its first phase of business development trainings and coaching sessions, we had the chance to interview Manar Shab’an, an APWE entrepreneur who uses community involvement and inventive business practices to help lead the way for woman-led entrepreneurship in Northern Palestine.

Manar Shab'an pauses for a photo during the Business Plan Development Group Coaching session.

Manar Shab’an pauses for a photo during a Business Plan Development Group Coaching session at TYO.

Tell us about yourself and how you became an entrepreneur:

I was born and raised in al-Jalame, Jenin and am the mother of five children. I am very active in my community and am one of the co-founders of al-Jalame Women’s Society, an organization committed to the empowerment of the village’s women and children. In addition to my active membership in al-Jalame Women’s Society, I am also a member of five additional community-based organizations. Because I did not have the opportunity to attend university, I use my community work and service as a way to develop and empower myself and to gain a better understanding of my rights as a woman in Palestinian society. While I initially started my vegetable growing business for financial reasons, as my enterprise succeeded, I began to reap many other benefits. I began to realize the importance of being economically independent, and as I generated more income, I was able to establish myself as one of the primary decision-makers in my family.

How did you hear about TYO and the Advancing Palestinian Women Entrepreneurs Program and what are you learning from the trainings and coaching sessions? 

I learned about Tomorrow’s Youth Organization (TYO) and the Advancing Palestinian Women Entrepreneurs (APWE) program through the Jenin Chamber of Commerce and have learned many important lessons as an APWE entrepreneur. While I have attended accounting and bookkeeping trainings in the past, the training I received from the Small Enterprise Center (SEC) was of especially high quality. I found it incredibly beneficial to receive an accounting workbook on which I now write my expenses, profit, and loss. Through SEC, I learned that I must account for all of my expenses. I am now learning how to decipher my profit and, in turn, how to more accurately determine the prices of my products.

Prior to joining APWE, I had both an embroidery and vegetable business. After one of SEC’s trainings, I realized that there was more earning potential in only continuing with my vegetable business. It was during the training that I realized I must think of creative ways to grow my vegetables in the face of the limited access I have to my village’s land. I learned that in order to make a profit under this social and political context, I must come up with creative, “out of the box” business approaches.

How do you see yourself benefitting from APWE in the future?

Before I joined APWE, I thought I knew everything about how to operate my business. I now realize I was mistaken! I do not intend on missing any of the trainings because there will always be something new for me to learn. I am excited to learn how to register with the Chamber of Commerce as that has been a long-standing goal of mine.

Vanessa, Women’s Empowerment Program Coordinator

Interviewed conducted by Futoon Qadri

Related posts:

TYO Intern Alumni: Where are They Now?

Tweet

1048971_3077964105303_1091434408_o

Eleanor Trenary

My internship at TYO helped guide my professional decisions after I left, and gave me a stronger sense of myself as an employee, manager, and person.

Originally from Minneapolis, MN Eleanor 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 summer of 2013.

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

One of the best moments from my class at Najah was a discussion my students had about their desired careers. There were strong opinions in the class about how Palestinians can best help and add to Palestinian society…by leaving and gaining professional and educational experience elsewhere, or by staying and adding immediately to the economy in Palestine. The discussion started organically, and it allowed students to challenge their own ideas about their place in society and hear from their peers about “big” topics.

What do you miss most about Nablus?

The kids! My students at TYO were the most inspirational, fun, and resilient people I’ve ever met. Working with 13-14 year olds was so much fun, and watching them grow as a community over the summer was amazing. That age (in any society) is really hard for boys and girls to work together, but as the term progressed my students became one community and one team–that was an incredible transition to be part of.

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

Currently, I work at a human services agency in Minneapolis as the Volunteer & Thrift Shop Manager. Our organization works with people in poverty in the Western Metro of the Twin Cities, providing food, housing, advocacy, employment, and goods. Our thrift shop is open to the public and gives people the chance to spend very little on high-quality items they need (plus it earns over $100,000 for our organization to support other programs). I love the opportunity to provide services for the community and bring together volunteers, donors, shoppers, and program participants in an equal and respectful exchange!

How do you think TYO affected you personally and professionally?

I applied to the internship with TYO because it sounded like a great professional opportunity and it definitely was, but the most valuable lessons I learned weren’t curriculum writing or classroom management or working with a translator. I learned much more about how to manage people of different cultures, how to asses and best utilize the skills of my coworkers, and I learned a lot about what kind of work is rewarding and satisfying for me. My internship at TYO helped guide my professional decisions after I left, and gave me a stronger sense of myself as an employee, manager, and person.

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

Apply! This internship challenged me and helped me grow in many ways. The staff at TYO really invest in their interns, and I gained valuable professional experience as a result of my time there. The relationships I formed with the kids, families, and other staff are invaluable and I’m still in contact with my fellow intern cohort.

Related posts:

Hope Through Cultural Diplomacy

Tweet
Zahir Khouri Fellow Moh and two local volunteers work together during Youth Soccer.

Zahir Khouri Fellow Moh and two local volunteers work together during Youth Soccer.

As technology and travel increase interactions between individuals of different cultural backgrounds, it is vital to recognize the similarities between seemingly different groups of people. Through the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) #My Voice My School student advocacy project, Palestinian refugee students in Syria recently had the opportunity to connect with students from Europe and identify the similarities between their lives in very different locations from around the world. A bond over a mutually enjoyed song can help to heighten the understanding, respect, and empathy between the youth participating in the program.

Intercultural exchange is at the heart of cultural diplomacy at TYO. As a result of the International Internship and Zahi Khouri Fellowship programs, local Palestinians have the opportunity to interact with interns and fellows from Canada, the United States, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. For members of both cultural groups, the benefits of spending time together are great.

Intern Ashley and Core Teacher Ahmad play with a student.

Intern Ashley and Core Teacher Ahmad play with a student.

Ahmad Alkhatib and Amal Khdair are Core Child Program Teachers at TYO and frequently have the opportunity to interact with international interns and fellows.

Ahmad expressed that having interns and fellows spend time in the classrooms with students helps the students to learn about Western culture with the students. During his time with the interns and fellows, he is able to assist with Arabic language and Palestinian culture, thus helping the newcomers to Palestine understand how to better interact within local culture.

Amal was happy that she was able to learn about how Western culture and share her Palestinian culture with the interns and fellows. “Palestinians love to live and learn. We have hope for life,” she said in a recent interview. In addition to enjoying singing, acting, and speaking with people, Amal found that a desire to work together to the benefit of the children is a common characteristic between the Palestinian teachers and the international interns and fellows. “At first, I was so surprised, but then it was an interesting thing.”

The similarities between the international group and the local population help build strong connections and a sense of camaraderie, even with the different cultural backgrounds.  The unity of individuals under the umbrella of friendship, respect, and understanding provides hope for all involved. After all, we are much more alike than we are different.

 

Lindsey, International Internship & Fellowship Coordinator

Related posts:

APWE’s Research Project Has Begun!

Tweet

Since 2011, Tomorrow’s Youth Organization has prioritized entrepreneurship programs specifically tailored to address the needs of women in Northern Palestine. TYO’s current project, Advancing Palestinian Women Entrepreneurs (APWE), seeks to empower women entrepreneurs and provide them with the tools and skills needed to grow profitable and sustainable businesses that are scalable and facilitate job creation. A critical component of any successful micro-business is a business owner’s ability to access start-up capitol to access the supplies, materials, and locale to conduct one’s business. A recent report from the Independent shows that micro-finance still plays a critical role in helping otherwise impoverished populations access the resources they need to actualize their dreams and improve the material conditions of their lives.

“I met at least 15 customers with similar stories. Among them are Julia and her daughter Isabel, who get up at 4am and work till 5pm making and selling tortillas for the neighbourhood; the profits from the business have allowed Julia to buy a car. Then there is Evana, who borrowed $200 to buy and sell cosmetics door to door, using the profits to pay her way through law school. I also meet Dona Julia Lilliam Ramirez, who runs a grocery store. A client of Finca for 19 years, she used her first loan to buy cleaning products in Managua to sell in the nearby villages.  She now uses the proceeds of her business to feed poor children in the neighbourhood.”

Kifayah, Khalidah, Suhad, Manar, and Noor participate in a bookkeeping training and learn how to record all of their financial transactions.

Kifayah, Khalidah, Suhad, Manar, and Noor participate in a bookkeeping training and learn how to record all of their financial transactions.

Even though micro-finance can be an essential part of any micro-enterprise, very few female entrepreneurs in Northern Palestine access loans from local lending institutions. Because of this, TYO has partnered with the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women and Arab World for Research and Development (AWRAD), to identify the main restrictions female entrepreneurs face in accessing financial services and start-up capital. The results of the study will 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. AWRAD will soon begin an extensive qualitative and quantitative field-based research to:

  • analyze the social, economic, and legal restrictions preventing women entrepreneurs from accessing financial services to start or grow their businesses
  • propose solutions-oriented recommendations for financial institutions to adopt in order to support a more robust and equitable economy for Palestinian women

TYO is excited to use the results of this research project to better understand the roadblocks women entrepreneurs face in Palestine in order to begin to shift the culture of lending practices and to better positions female entrepreneurs in Palestine to start, cultivate, and maintain successful micro-businesses.

Vanessa, Women’s Empowerment Program Coordinator

 

Related posts:

The Power of Soft Skills

Tweet

Recently, Kaiser Health News published an article about the importance of teaching soft skills to children. Researchers were able to determine that children who participated in academic programming that included parent training groups, academic tutoring and lessons in self-control and social skills, showed signs of reduced delinquency, arrests and use of health and mental health services as the students aged through adolescence and young adulthood. This positive trend in preventing problems in children’s lives, can be attributed to the social and self-regulation skills the students learned from ages 6 to 11, according to researchers at Duke University.

“The conclusion that we would make is that these [soft] skills should be emphasized even more in our education system and in our system of socializing children,” says Kenneth Dodge, a professor of public policy and of psychology and neuroscience at Duke who was a principal investigator in this study. “There’s a growing and new understanding of what it takes to be successful as an adolescent and an adult,” Dodge says. “It used to be that what we thought all it took was academic skills. Reading and math are very important for tasks that require reading and math. Self-control is important for life tasks that require self-control — that’s what avoiding arrest and violent crime is all about.”

At TYO, we too believe in the power of teaching soft skills to children – as well as to adolescents, youth and women. In TYO’s Core Child Program, for children 4-8 years old, we implement a holistic method of non-formal education. Our curricula focuses on themes of Identity and Communication, encouraging students to better understand themselves and their community, while teaching essential life skills. These skills include building self-confidence, empathy, self-control, communication, teamwork, peaceful problem-solving, and logic & reasoning.

Youth Soft Skills

And while it’s critical that TYO continues to invest in the lives of young children, we also value our work with adolescents and youth 9-25 years old. In the Middle East and in Nablus in particular, this age group is considered to be one of the greatest risks and opportunities. We are committed to engaging this important demographic, the leaders and parents of tomorrow. By integrating soft skills into our programming, adolescents and youth can make smarter, healthier decisions for themselves and become better leaders for tomorrow.

Related posts:

Filling the Employability Gap for Students in Palestine

Tweet
13908263472_e4faa1674c_k

University students continue their studies with the Professional Competency course to further build their skills.

Continuing education is a concept that is tends to coexist with luxuries such as access to higher education and employment rooted in career choices. Within Western culture, continuing education tends to be classes or workshops closely associated with one’s career path. The purpose of spending the time and effort to continue education after formal education is completed is to increase knowledge base in one’s field of expertise, to ensure methods of action within the work environment are current and relevant, and to set the stage for career advancement. Individuals who embrace lifelong learning may find continuing education to be a method to also obtain personal growth and satisfaction.

Within Palestine, higher education is available and many young adults obtain a university degree. According to the numbers published by Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, the number of students enrolled in universities and university colleges for the school year of 2014-2015 is 209,125. When the 12,270 students enrolled in community colleges are added, you have a total of 121,395 students enrolled in institutions of higher education within Palestine this year. While there are not up to date statistics regarding unemployment in Palestine, the majority of volunteers with whom I spoke expressed concern about the lack of employment opportunities available to them in the region. While some individuals may become discouraged by grim job prospects, many students and graduates at TYO eagerly spend their time finding ways to volunteer or continue learning on their own to develop skills needed to pursue employment successfully.

During recent discussions with some of the TYO university aged volunteers, I was enlightened to learn of not only the desire to increase skills to make them more employable, but also the eagerness to actively pursue activities to develop personal and professional growth. Many volunteers spoke of the importance of volunteering at TYO to give of their time to the younger students and interact with international staff, interns, and fellows. Several expressed their desire to improve English skills to make them more attractive to employers and to ease in cross cultural communication. All the volunteers were motivated and enthusiastic to continue their growth and determined to be prepared when such opportunities arise.

The time spent with the volunteers discussing their needs and desires for the future left me with a significant new understanding of my own culture. Within my culture, there are so many opportunities available with few limitations for many young people. Yet the desire and motivation to do the hard work to succeed isn’t always as prominent as what I witnessed in volunteers at TYO. The volunteers push past the obstacles present in their career paths, seek ways to improve their marketable skills, and meet challenges with strength and determination. The conversations of that day inspired and motivated me not only be more present in my own daily choices, but to actively support the volunteers as they continue to persistently overcome challenges with determination, strength, and grace.

The volunteers at TYO are a special group of young adults who are role models and sources of support for the youth within the center.  Given their self determination and incredible work ethic, it will be an exciting opportunity to see how their choices impact their future career paths.

 

-Lindsey is the International Internship and Fellowship Coordinator

Related posts:

I Have Hope and I Must Survive

Tweet

The Advancing Palestinian Women Entrepreneurs project seeks to empower women entrepreneurs and provide them with the tools and skills needed to grow profitable and sustainable businesses that are scalable and facilitate job creation. The entrepreneurship training and development programming that Tomorrow’s Youth Organization offers is both timely and highly sought after. According to a 27 November 2015 Forbes magazine article, Women’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation Surge Globally, global entrepreneurship has surged in recent years. The report the article reference points to “women’s growing participation in economies around the world, which is good news for both families and communities. Having two paychecks brings economic stability to families, insulating them from the upheaval that can result if one person loses a paycheck, as the report notes. In addition, women tend to invest heavily in their communities and education, the report points out.” TYO’s entrepreneurs are strong, forward-thinking women who face countless adversities but seek to create and maintain successful businesses for the very reasons outlined above. Today we interview Ikhlas, an entrepreneur from Salem village outside of Nablus whose insatiable drive is very much attributed to her desire to support and financially contribute to both her family and her community. Ikhlas is a visually-impaired woman with a Master’s degree from An-Najah University. Our interview was conducted entirely in English.

APWE entrepreneur Ikhlas is excited to establish her English tutoring and instruction business.

APWE entrepreneur Ikhlas is excited to establish her English educational center for sighted and visually impaired people.

1. Tell me about yourself and your family. Where are you from? How many people are in your family?

My name is Ikhlas and I am from Salem village. I was born in 1987 as a blind woman to a poor family. I have three brothers and two sisters. One of my brothers, Mohammed, is blind like me. We all live with our mother as our father was killed in 2004. I come from a very loving family who loved me and gave me tremendous amounts of love and care. I have a special bond with my mom. I have a Bachelor’s degree in English Language and Literature and a Master’s degree in English Translation and Applied Linguistics. I am an advocate for disability rights and am a member of four disability organizations. I have represented Palestine through a United Nations conference in Malta in 2011 and traveled to the United States in 2012 through Stars of Hope.

2. How, when, and why did you learn English?

Given I was born blind, I attended a girls boarding school in Ramallah where I learned British English. Knowing English gives me a highly competitive edge in the workplace. I also highly enjoy the language.

3. Tell me about the business you are developing.

I want to open an educational center for both sighted and visually-impaired people. I would like to teach people how to comprehend and speak English. As a blind woman, it is important for me to have my own business. Palestinian law does not protect disabled people from discrimination so it is very difficult for me to secure employment. I can not only help myself by opening my own business but can also support my family and eventually provide jobs to other blind people.

4. What are you learning in the Advancing Palestinian Women Entrepreneurs program?

When I first came to the business development trainings, I had no idea what a business was or how I could run my own business. I was merely having random ideas in my mind but now they are becoming more organized. With the expertise of Ahmed Abu-Baker from Small Enterprise Center, I am able to organize my thoughts and generate my ideas. I am learning how to refine the service I am offering, develop a business plan, incorporate branding and marketing strategies into my business plan and so much more. I am excited to learn how to conduct a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis as a way to study both my internal and external environment as a business owner.

Ikhlas leads a discussion with fellow entrepreneurs Eman, Jinan, Eman, and Sanaa'

Ikhlas leads a discussion with fellow APWE entrepreneurs Eman, Jinan, Eman, and Sanaa’

5. What are the challenges you face as someone who is blind? How do you overcome those challenges?

As a blind woman, I suffer from a great deal of discrimination. I was treated very badly throughout all of my schooling as a child. I have been treated very badly by people in my society but have always had my family as my backbone and primary support system. I am blessed to have such a supportive family and I seek to open a business to support them and other disabled people who are not able to secure employment. Sometimes I feel weak and I weep. After my father died, our family became even poorer than we were before. Despite it all I still have hope and a tremendous will to live. Despite all of the horrible conditions we face, I must survive.

Ikhlas was interviewed by Vanessa, Women’s Empowerment Program Coordinator

Related posts:

Human Rights Day 2015

Tweet

Today is Universal Human Rights Day. It commemorates the day on which, in 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. And this year, marks the 50th Anniversary of the two International Covenants on Human Rights.

Watch this message from the High Commissioner Mr. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein:

Watch it in Arabic, here:

At TYO, key concepts and themes of human rights are broken down in the classroom so that children and mothers & participants of The Women’s Group, can easily understand them. With children, we discuss the right to learn, play, agree/refuse and live in peace and safety. With mothers, we discuss children’s rights, marital rights, freedom of speech, and the right protect one’s body from harm or abuse. The most important message in this video, however, is that these freedoms are the “birthright of all human beings” and that “traditional practices and cultural norms cannot justify taking them away.”

What are your thoughts about universal freedoms? Follow along with #HumanRightsDay

hrd_englishhrd_arabic

Related posts:

Youth In Focus: An Interview with Esra Q.

Tweet

Esra is originally from Ceres Village near Jenin. She graduated with a BA in Physical Education from An-Najah National University and she currently volunteers as a yoga instructor with the Women’s Program.

IMG_7775

Were you able to find work in your field of study after you graduated? How has TYO helped?

At first, I could not. When I graduated, I worked for a year as a teacher between public and private schools, and then I worked in telecommunications because I wanted a job even though it wasn’t my passion. After three months, I needed to quit in order to attend a yoga course in Bethlehem. My telecommunications job was in Jenin and I couldn’t take the time to commute but I wanted to build my sports resume. I really like yoga, and wanted to pursue more training in that field.

I heard about TYO from a friend and when I heard about the women’s empowerment program and all of the skills and physical activities they provide, I wanted to see what I could do to help. I came to TYO to offer my yoga skills as a volunteer.  I wanted to start teaching people about how much yoga can help the body and mind. I really enjoy the work I’m doing with TYO. I get to see women in pain, relax and heal. The women have a tremendous amount of commitment to my classes because they feel how much it is helping.  There is a lack of knowledge of yoga throughout Palestine. I work with four different classes and about 60 women, I understand the work I’m doing at TYO is helping spread the word.

Why does yoga resonate with you so strongly?

At the university, we studied group sports, but I was really drawn to the independence and individuality of practicing yoga. I believe yoga will help the people of Palestine manage many of the daily stresses we face. I’m getting feedback from the women about the importance of my classes at TYO, and how much it helps them get through the hardships of the week. The time they spend doing yoga is for them. The women TYO offers classes to cannot necessarily afford to go to a Zumba, fitness, or yoga class in town so teaching them to do yoga, something that can be done alone with minimal equipment, is something they can take and practice at home. I’m hearing they’re also including their children!

My personality changed a lot after I started doing yoga. I became more positive, calm, and more introspective. I think these skills are important in the job market, and in my personal life. I see the chain reaction of healthy individuals helping create a healthy community. It makes me happy to know I am participating in this positive change. Yoga’s healing capabilities are so important for everyone. Being able to facilitate this practice, and teaching people how it will improve their lives, is exactly what I want to do with my career. I see the change I am making and it pushes me to keep going.

In addition to your volunteer work with the women, you are also participating in the professional competency classes at TYO, are you finding them helpful?

I never want to lose an opportunity to learn new skills. When I heard about the competency skills classes, I wanted to be a part of it. I signed up for the professional competency class, and what I find to be most challenging is actually that it is held in English. At first I thought I couldn’t do it, but then I realized this was actually a positive experience because I get to learn two skills in one class. I’m still looking for a job and I know the more experience I have the better, especially in English. I am very social and I love to network so part of being in class is socializing with my peers. Meeting new people and learning about their familial background adds to my overall life and wellbeing. I am always searching for trainings, and I’m looking outside of Palestine. Right now, we don’t value yoga as a society, but I would like to continuing learning and come back a teacher. A university degree is not enough. It’s a great start and opens the door for further learning, but you have to go seek more. Life is all about learning.

This interview was conducted and translated by Sarah Fodero, Fall 2015 Intern and Futoon Qadri, Outreach Coordinator.

Related posts:

Human of Nablus 6

Tweet

IMG_7711

“Today in English class, we learned that M is for Mouse!”

اليوم في صف اللغه الانجليزيه تعلمنا بان حرف “M”هو كلمة Mouse اي “فار بالعربية “!

Related posts: