Supporting Women's Economic Development & Business Associations

When a woman earns a wage and financial independence, her income improves the quality of life for the entire family - including better nutrition and more educational opportunities for her children.

NEF has a long tradition of supporting women's micro-enterprise development in the West Bank. These efforts have resulted in significant and sustained income-generating opportunities for women.

With support from the Rangoonwala Foundation, NEF has launched a new cycle of support for women entrepreneurs, with a goal of establishing at least 150 women-owned micro-enterprises by 2016.

NEF provides women entrepreneurs with assistance to:

• Identify high potential businesses through regional economic assessments;

• Develop micro-enterprise and business management skills;

• Access micro-credit for micro-enterprise start-ups; and

• Develop an enduring support system through micro-franchising and a women’s business support network.

In a 2012 initiative of this ongoing NEF program, in one year 40 Palestinian women were able to increase their income by an average of $300 each after receiving training and support from NEF field staff to establish micro-enterprises cultivating thyme, a traditional ingredient in Palestinian cooking. The 40 women live in the Jordan Valley and are all the sole income provider for their families. NEF provided them with basic garden supplies and thyme seeds, as well as training in modern horticulture practices, the skills necessary to maintain their new gardens, and marketing techniques to sell thyme as a fresh or dried culinary herb.

Our program to empower women in Palestine builds on relationships that NEF established with women’s associations through the World Food Program-supported School Feeding Program (2004-2010). NEF worked with 24 women’s associations and supported over 2,000 women across the northern West Bank, mentoring them to help them put in place management and operational systems. This included training in basic business management and support to diversify their sources of income. For example, NEF worked with the ladies club in the Asira Al Shamaleyeh Municipality to establish a soap processing business to create job opportunities for unemployed women in the area.

More recently, with funding from the Embassy of New Zealand, NEF implemented a comprehensive basic training in organizational and business management for leaders of 10 women’s associations who had participated in the school feeding program.  

A follow-up survey -- one-and-a-half years after NEF support ended -- showed that these associations had established 57 concessions in primary schools, providing nutritious snacks and other treats to children as private businesses. In 2012, these concessions created 168 jobs for women and generated $130,000 in revenue which was reinvested in their businesses and used to support their charitable work.

As NEF helps more Palestinian women entrepreneurs realize their goals, we also actively continue to coach previous program participants in applying their new skills and strengthening their cooperative businesses.

Learn more about NEF's work in the Palestinian Territories.


In donating to the Near East Foundation, you support education, enterprise, and community empowerment in some of the Middle East and North Africa's most impoverished areas.

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