Expanding Horizons for Women in the West Bank

Jawaher Bani Shamsi is a farmer who has been working on the land in and around Nablus, the West Bank, since she was a child. Before receiving assistance from the Palestinian Women’s Microenterprise Development project (PWMD), a joint initiative of the Rangoonwala Foundation and the Near East Foundation (NEF), she owned two sheep and depended primarily on the produce from her backyard garden to support her husband and 10 children. The PWMD project has equipped Jawaher, and 200 other women’s association members, with the skills and resources they needed to launch small agricultural microenterprises. So far, the women have established 150 businesses and contributed 300 new jobs to the West Bank economy.

With support from NEF, Jawaher has been able to expand her homegrown production to include a three-acre yield, and she has even introduced ecofriendly measures that help increase the sustainability of her microenterprise by using her own organic fertilizer. Moreover, for irrigation purposes, she collects rainwater via a pipe system on the roof of her house to provide water for her crops and animals.

During the off-season, Jawaher supplements her business by selling dried or frozen vegetables, making her less dependent on the sale of fresh farm produce and giving her greater flexibility regarding her income generating capabilities. And her prosperity continues to grow! A year after launching her microenterprise, Jawaher’s profits have enabled her to lease an additional two acres of land and diversify her crops by planting several new types of vegetables. She also plans on investing in poultry farming.

Jawaher’s dedication to fair prices and high quality products has won her a loyal client base from among her neighbors, extended family, and community at large. Her hard work, coupled with support from NEF’s PWMD project, have allowed Jawaher to take her economic wellbeing into her own hands, providing sustenance for her family and inspiration for local women in and around Nablus and the West Bank.

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