Ramallah, West Bank (January 22, 2014) — Carmen Dweikat is one of almost 50 women who started their own business in 2013 with Near East Foundation support. The new businesses have created nearly 100 new jobs.
It was only September of 2013 when Carmen, a young student finishing her Computer Programming degree, became inspired to change her future. While she had always loved making henna artwork and took every opportunity to practice and perfect her abilities, she had never considered starting her own business to do it full-time.
“I was scared in the beginning,” she said. “I was just practicing my skills as a hobby. I never had the motivation to turn it into a business, but the Near East Foundation opens the door for us to participate.”
Carmen approached the Near East Foundation (NEF) through a local association, the Bita Womens’ Association for Development, where she volunteers. She liked NEF’s approach to support women’s business plans by first raising most of the capital and then receiving a grant from NEF and its UK-based partner, the Rangoonwala Foundation, which shares NEF’s mission of empowering communities through long-term sustainable development.
“I really liked the idea of the woman and NEF contributing to the total amount in the business plan.” Carmen remarked. “It makes a woman take her business more seriously and provides a sense of belonging.”
In total, NEF is providing training to 200 Palestinian women entrepreneurs. The effort, which began in October 2012, aims to support the creation of 150 new businesses. On average, women entrepreneurs provide 75% of the start-up capital and NEF contributes the remaining 25%. The program allows Carmen and women entrepreneurs like her to plan for their futures knowing they can provide income for themselves.
“I hope NEF continues to include more women so they can benefit from this program as I have benefitted. And I hope NEF keeps following up with us to help improve and expand our microenterprises,” she said. “For example, I am planning on expanding my microenterprise into face painting.”
Other women participating in the project are pursuing businesses in a range of areas including small farming, baking, and retail shops.
The Near East Foundation is a U.S.-based international development NGO leading innovative social and economic change in the Middle East and Africa for nearly 100 years. Founded in 1915, NEF helps build more sustainable, prosperous, and inclusive communities through education, governance, and economic development initiatives. NEF field staff – all of them from the countries in which they work – partner with local organizations to implement grassroots solutions and to empower citizens through “knowledge, voice, and enterprise.” To learn more visit www.neareast.org.