Empower Women Entrepreneurs in Palestine & Jordan

by Near East Foundation (NEF)
Women share ideas about business opportunities
Women share ideas about business opportunities

We continue to help Palestinian women find ways to earn an income and build financial independence by helping them develop small businesses.

In recent months, NEF has worked with over 30 women in the Nablus-Asira and Jenin-Qabatiya clusters of villages to identify business opportunities in their communities – including in agriculture and crafts.

Twenty-three women participated in our multi-day training workshop in Asira. The women learned about microenterprise development, discussed gender issues, and received training in a variety of skills. Topics included: gender equity, project management, accounting and finance, marketing, business plan development, and more.

Following the training, 14 women received funding for their business plans to either grow or launch their own small business!

In the coming months we’ll continue to provide similar training to women in more villages and fund additional business plans. 

THANK YOU for your support of this vital work to create economic opportunities for impoverished Palestinian women!

Women in Asira discuss gender issues
Women in Asira discuss gender issues
Discussion during economic assessment in Qabatiya
Discussion during economic assessment in Qabatiya
School children buy nutritious snacks at canteen
School children buy nutritious snacks at canteen

At 10 a.m. every morning, 300 children burst through the doors of the Jerusalem school Madraseh al-Quds and run towards the outdoor playground. Before the children begin to play, they race to the canteen to buy a morning snack. Because of the Near East Foundation’s (NEF) work with local women’s associations, the school is able to provide its students with fresh and nutritious snacks every day—while also supporting the livelihoods of participating women.

The savory Palestinian treats produced by the women’s associations supported by NEF are filled with local cheese and spices. Members of these women’s associations have learned new skills in NEF trainings – including accounting and business management – and have participated in horticulture projects. Combined, these activities have led to the creation of more than 168 jobs for women.

The Balata Women’s Society, located in the Balata refugee camp, is one of the women’s associations that has benefited from NEF training and whose members sell baked goods in the school canteen. The canteen’s shelves were once filled with candy, juice boxes and potato chips--representative of the malnutrition problem faced by more than 20% of the Palestinian youth. Now, the canteen provides healthy alternative snacks to the children, many of whom come to school with an empty stomach.

On an average school day, the Balata Women’s Society makes about $80 by selling snacks in the canteen. The profits are distributed among the women who work there. In 2012, there were a total of 57 school canteens set up by women’s associations supported by NEF, which collectively have generated $130,000 in revenue.  The women are excited to continue providing children with nutritious alternatives, while at the same time continuing to invest in their self-created businesses and supporting women members of their associations.

Your support to women’s business development increases incomes and opportunities for families in the Palestinian Territories.  We are excited to expand our work and share similar stories of the impact our activities have on families. Thank You! 

Women's canteen at Madraseh al-Quds School
A child enjoys a nutritious snack at school
A child enjoys a nutritious snack at school


Palestinian woman harvesting time
Palestinian woman harvesting time

Forty Palestinian women have increased their income by an average of $300 per family after receiving agricultural management training and support from NEF field staff since January 2012.

The women successfully increased their income by developing sustainable small enterprises harvesting thyme.  

In October 2012, not even a year after the project began, the 40 participating women had a second thyme harvest that was productive in both crop yield and income generation. In the future they will continue to harvest regularly.

Throughout the project, NEF technical staff trained women on seedless propagation of crops in their fields. Through this training, seven women increased their planted thyme area by 200%.

Additionally, ten women learned to process thyme with oregano and sesame to make “Za’tar,” which is 50% more profitable than selling fresh thyme. Combined with olive oil and bread, “Za’tar” is a common breakfast food for Palestinian families.

These 40 women have proven their ability to manage their new microenterprises and are well on their way to becoming successful entrepreneurs. The Near East Foundation will continue to provide them with guidance as needed.

NEF strives to empower women to be successful and independent entrepreneurs. This includes adapting to changing business conditions.

For example, the Balata Women’s Association received NEF support to prepare and distribute nutritionally fortified snacks through the World Food Programme’s school feeding program. When funding ended, Balata women used their experience to establish concessions in primary schools, providing nutritious snacks to children as a private business. With training from NEF, they have created jobs for women and a revenue stream to invest in social development activities that benefit all of them.

As our women partners successfully establish their small enterprises, we can expand our model to help more women. When the thyme project concludes, a new group of women will receive support to develop a variety of business initiatives.

NEF is currently launching a new cycle of support for women micro-entrepreneurs, with a goal of supporting the establishment of at least 150 women micro-enterprises by 2016. These women will receive assistance in:

  • Identifying high potential businesses through regional economic assessments;
  • Developing micro-enterprise and business management skills;
  • Accessing micro-credit for micro-enterprise start-ups; and
  • Developing an enduring support system through micro-franchising and a women’s business support network.

This exciting expansion will launch in the coming months. We look forward to sharing updates about the impact with you. 

Your support to women’s business development increases incomes and opportunities for families in the Palestinian Territories. Thank You! 

Thyme growing in the field
Thyme growing in the field
Preparing the dried herbs
Preparing the dried herbs
A variety of herbs to sell at market
A variety of herbs to sell at market
A women-owned school canteen supported by NEF
A women-owned school canteen supported by NEF


Tending to the new thyme crop
Tending to the new thyme crop

Impoverished families in the villages of Nassareyyeh, Aqrabaneyyeh, Bathan, and Fara’ah in the Jordan Valley continue to improve their livelihoods through the cultivation of thyme, an important traditional herb that is used widely across the region.

Over the past six months, 40 Palestinian women have successfully started their own thyme gardens, working in close partnership with the Near East Foundation, local women’s organizations, and the Palestinian Center for Agricultural Research and Development.

During the first and second trimmings, the women took in an average of approximately $150.00 each from nearly 19 kilograms of thyme, sold either fresh or dried. 

The new income opportunities created by the project are helping to eliminate poverty for participating women and their families. Having a productive home garden allows women to take care of their large families while also contributing to the family income.

With the first harvest for market expected in October, the women must first survive a major challenge to their crop: the annual dry season. Before the dry season began, each of the women received training from the NEF project team on how to help their crops endure through the dry season, when precipitation decreases and crops become vulnerable to drought.   

With help from NEF and its partners, half of the women planted their seedlings in rows and installed drip irrigation pipes. The other women received guidance on how to plant their seedlings in basins and irrigate their crop by water hose or pitcher.

For many of the women, this is the first time they have grown thyme or had sole responsibility for a crop. Through the duration of the growing cycle, the NEF project team will continue to visit the women in their fields and support them with training in key areas – such as irrigation.

During one recent training session, women learned harvesting, storing, and marketing skills, which they will utilize with their first yield in the fall. These new skills included a technique to cut from the top of the plant in order to stop vertical growing and allow horizontal growing. Over time, this technique leads to an increase in total production – and a corresponding increases in profits. 

Production from the thyme crop is expected to continue for the next 4-5 years as a sustainable source of income for these entrepreneurial women and their families.

Two of the 40 women participating in the project
Two of the 40 women participating in the project
First thyme crop
First thyme crop

In 2012, 40 Palestinian women have successfully established market gardens after receiving supplies and training from the Near East Foundation (NEF).  Each of the women is the sole income provider for her family.  This project is helping the women launch their own businesses growing thyme, an herb traditionally used in the Palestinian Territories and surrounding region, to create a sustainable source of income that will both improve life for families and help stimulate the local economy. 

The project will impact an increasing number of women as the 40 participants share their new knowledge and skills with others.

After the distribution of thyme seedlings in January 2012, NEF experts conducted field visits and training sessions for the 40 women who live in four villages in the Jordan Valley.  During the first field visit in January, the NEF team monitored the newly planted farms for quality assurance in such areas as appropriate distance between plants and proper watering conditions.

In April, the 40 participating women harvested their first thyme crop.  Because the herbs are newly-planted and not yet matured, the small yield of this first cut will be used for home cooking, dried for tea, and stored for medicinal purposes.

In four or five months, the women will harvest again.  Their plants will have taken root and matured, and the larger yield will be sold at the local market, providing the women with the first monetary profit from their gardens.

One of the women participating in the project is Im Adel.  She is from the village of Nassariyeh and has four children living at home.  Although she has spent most of her life as a farmer on her family olive and cucumber farm, her thyme garden is her first self-run and self-owned project.  Im Adel wakes at 3 a.m. daily to pray, prepare breakfast for the children, and feed the sheep - all before she leaves to tend her flourishing thyme garden.  When asked how she feels abour her growing seedlings she replied, "I'm glad because I am the one who planted them, the one who cares for them.  I watch them grow - they are like my children."

After attending the training session on how to properly trim seedlings, Im Adel was skeptical of the new techniques.  But she quickly saw the results of following the NEF training methods, and has since shared her new knowledge with other women in the village.

Amneh, also from Nassariyeh, is raising her brother's children by herself.  As the first harvest for market sale approaches, Amneh is planning to use the money she earns to buy school supplies and toys for her nephews.

The women will continue to advance their knowledge in horticulture and agriculture through an NEF agreement with the Palestinian Center for Agricultural Research and Development, which will lead ongoing trainings for the women. 


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Organization Information

Near East Foundation (NEF)

Location: Syracuse, NY - USA
Website: http:/​/​www.neareast.org
Project Leader:
Sarah Peterson
Program Officer
Syracuse, New York United States

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