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May 10, 2016

Manar Shab'an: Jalameh's Trailblazer

Manar's enterprise funds her daughter's education.
Manar's enterprise funds her daughter's education.

"Many businesspeople say they started from zero, but I really started from zero. As a Palestinian woman without a college degree, who comes from a village in the north where resources for start-ups are so few, all stakes were against me. I fit all the criteria that our society says make me doomed to fail, and that is what drives me to succeed." – Manar Shab’an of Jalameh, Jenin

In 2010, Manar and her family found themselves in dire financial need. With practically zero starting capital, Manar took the bold move to invest her energy in starting up her own vegetable-growing business. All along, the political climate meant she faced the continuing confiscation of her village’s land and quickly learned innovative growing techniques. Manar continuously experiments and discovers new ways to create “vertical” gardens, growing taller vine vegetables over others that require shade to make the best use of a small area of land. Manar’s greenhouses weave together vertical and horizontal growing patterns, maximizing the quantity of vegetables grown on the least amount of land. Given the village’s limited and irregular access to water, Manar also continues to experiment with water-recycling techniques to ensure that the excess water of one plant is used to hydrate neighboring plants.

Although Manar initially started her business to meet the basic financial needs of her family, as her enterprise grew, she imagined greater possibilities by providing education and a better life for her children. As she generated income, bought land, and built a larger house, Manar’s role in the family soon shifted to that of an outspoken decision-maker and leader. Not having had the opportunity to attend university herself, Manar used the profits of her business to save for her children’s higher education. Currently, Manar funds her eldest daughter’s education entirely on the profit she gains from her business.

Through her micro-enterprise, Manar has also stepped up to give back to her community. After receiving a rain barrel from a local aid organization, Manar offered to share it with neighboring farmers who needed access to one. Manar firmly believes that her business’s success should benefit the collective, not just herself and her family.

Since she started her business, Manar has furthermore become very active in her community and is one of the co-founders of Al-Jalameh Women’s Society, an organization committed to the empowerment of village women and children. Manar leads councils in the municipalities of both Al-Jalameh and Jenin in order to ensure that women’s issues are at the forefront of local decision-making. Although Manar has always been a veritable force, as her business grows, she is becoming a stronger and more confident leader who tackles the core issues that her family and community face. Manar receives increasing recognition for her business and leadership, most recently being named one of Jenin’s leading entrepreneurs by the Chamber of Commerce.

Currently, Manar grows pumpkins, mint, and parsley, renting the land on which she works. Her long-term goal is to grow more expensive produce such as strawberries and tomatoes so that she can generate enough profit to buy her land. Until then, she proudly uses the profits of her business to fund her daughter’s undergraduate education and vows to do so until graduation day. Manar is a testament to the fact that there is no mind more innovative than that of a woman who must support her family, and no spirit more determined than that of a Palestinian.

Manar tends vegetables in her "vertical garden"
Manar tends vegetables in her "vertical garden"
Apr 5, 2016

Providing After-School Academic Support

Mariam, Abdul Aziz & Shahd read in the TYO library
Mariam, Abdul Aziz & Shahd read in the TYO library

TYO is pleased to announce the newest addition to its programming for school-aged children. Academic instruction in public schools in Nablus is very weak and there is a great need for additional academic support.The education system, from primary to higher education, stresses rote learning and educators are often ill equipped and unable to provide additional support outside the classroom. To increase our support to children, this spring we launched a pilot after-school academic tutoring program for students in grades 4, 5 and 6. Focusing on math, English and Arabic, the children’s’ commitment has been remarkably high. Led by a group of 51 university youth volunteers, over 100 students attend the TYO Center four days a week for our academic tutoring program. The students have voiced that the program has helped them tremendously. We interviewed Mariam, Abudl Aziz and Shahd, to learn more about how the program has benefitted them.

Mariam, 5th grade:

I registered for this program because I want to be better in English. I was so happy when this class was being offered because I know TYO is a safe place to learn. My teacher yells at me at school and I am scared to raise my hand or ask questions. At home, my mom has no time to help me study because she’s busy helping my younger brothers and sisters. I felt that I want somebody to help me. At TYO I have Khaltu Malak to help me understand what I’m reading and to teach me how to write correctly. She also has a lot of vocabulary. I feel excellent now because I learned new words and my handwriting is better. But I’m still scared of my tough teacher at school.

I really recommend this program to other kids! I have encouraged a lot of girls in my school to register because there are many who need help and who are always being sent to the principal’s office at school for not understanding assignments. If they get help at TYO, they don’t have to be punished at school, they develop their English and they will feel better about themselves. And my mom is very grateful because she feels that because of this program, I’ve gotten better at school. Please don’t stop this program. It should be continued because we’re doing better at school!

Abdul Aziz, 5th grade:

I like this program because of the academic focus. I feel like I’m good in Arabic and math but English is my struggle. I can read English but I don’t understand what I’m reading. I feel that I’m getting a bit better, but I wish the program would never end. I want to be better and smarter. At home they help me but here at TYO, I feel that I have more individual attention. My family is very happy to have me in this program because they see progress in me. I want to be a surgeon when I grow up and I heard that if you want to be a surgeon you need to read and write English. Also if there’s a group of foreigners visiting me in the hospital, I should be able to speak with them. I like the program because I’m learning but I’m a fast learner and so I also like helping other kids learn too. I like the volunteer teachers at TYO very much because they respect me a lot.

Shahd, 4th grade:

The academic program is very nice. I learned things I never learned at school. I’m getting better and smarter. The teachers at school are surprised when I answer questions correctly and one teacher was so proud and surprised, she asked the other students to clap for me. I like to come here every day and TYO has become part of my family. Last week when I get home after TYO, my mom asked me if I studied at TYO, and I said yes. She asked me if I understood what was being taught and then reviewed the material with me. When she found out that I have learned the material, she said, “TYO is really is great!” I’m so happy because I’m young and still in 4th grade and that means I can still keep coming for academic support next year when I’m in the 5th grade.

Feb 9, 2016

Training More Entrepreneurs

Brainstorming what it means to take risks
Brainstorming what it means to take risks

TYO is excited to announce that our newest program for women entrepreneurs in Palestine is in full swing. The objective of the project is 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. We are excited to be offering a program that will increase women’s enterprise development skills and provide them with the opportunity to expand their micro-businesses.

Where We Have Been

After interviewing over one hundred highly-qualified entrepreneurs throughout Northern Palestine, TYO selected and invited the top forty-five candidates to join the newest cohort. Following our selection of entrepreneurs, the new program launched in late November 2015 with a month of robust trainings including a psychological and social assessment, an idea sourcing and product development workshop, a bookkeeping training, and a seven-day business planning intensive with an above-average attendance number of 32 participants per training. The psychological and social assessment provided the women with an opportunity for TYO’s in-house psychologist to lead a day-long discussion in the personal, familial and societal forces either limiting or encouraging the women to forward their careers as entrepreneurs.

Following the psychological and social assessment, TYO’s primary technical training partner inaugurated their trainings by providing both an idea sourcing & product development and a bookkeeping workshop. The idea sourcing and product development workshop was a deeply beneficial initial exercise that taught the women how to brainstorm sound business ideas and how to craft and design their products while keeping in theme with their newly formed business ideas. Thereafter, the women received a day-long bookkeeping training which was challenging yet beneficial to both existing and budding business owners. Even the entrepreneurs with existing businesses did not know how to record their expenditures, revenue, and profit and this workshop provided them with that critical skill.

We wrapped up 2015 with a seven-day business planning intensive in which the women were taught how to prepare a sound and structured business plan. The women were given two weeks to apply what they had learned to developing their own business plans.

Where We Are Going

Now that the women have been trained on the basics of business plan development and submitted their business plans, they will enter more intensive group and individual coaching phases. 2016 will be ripe with more intensive trainings as well as a Networking event, business-English intensives, and regional apprenticeship opportunities! The women have just gotten their feet wet and are ready for so much more. These entrepreneurs have demonstrated tremendous commitment to their development and advancement as small business owners and we are continuously honored to walk alongside them on this journey.  

Thank you for your supporting women-led businesses in Palestine!


Training session on how to conduct market research
Training session on how to conduct market research
Entrepreneurs Dalal and Asmaa' smile at a training
Entrepreneurs Dalal and Asmaa' smile at a training
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