NEF Helps Advance Gender Equality in Armenia

NEF Armenia Country Director Arpine Baghdoyan address a crowd of partners for an upcoming project to address survivors of Gender-Based Violence in Armenia.

YEREVAN, Armenia – This past June, organizers met to discuss a project to deliver economic development programs to support gender equality and protect women against gender-based violence being launched by the European Union (EU), our own Near East Foundation UK (NEF-UK), and the Gegharkunik Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI). The project, 95 percent funded by the EU under the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) will be implemented in Yerevan, Syunik Province, and the Lori Province to improve protection, gender equality, agency, and economic independence for women survivors of gender-based violence.

Over a two-year period, the project will help 200 gender-based violence survivors gain increased employability, small business skills, and safe access to economic opportunities. Sixty women will be offered tailored vocational training with accredited certificates, 120 will receive targeted business and financial support to start their own micro-businesses, and 80 will be offered tailored employment development support. The project aims to increase confidence and self-reliance amongst survivors, so that women can make choices and shape the choices that affect their lives.

The project works with four civil society organisations to engage the public, support groups, employers, and other civil society and market actors across many sectors in joint actions, dialogue, and training around norms, safe workspaces, and protection strategies linked to economic opportunities. The project will build commitment to preventing gender-based violence and promoting gender equality among community leaders and employers.

GCCI—a Gavar-based chamber of commerce that aims to promote sustainable local economic development through market assessment, business development, and micro-credit – and NEF UK started the project on 21 January 2015. The project is due to be completed by 20 January 2017.

Palestinian Women Share Experience for Better Business


HEBRON, West Bank — Claudia Stephan, an entrepreneur from Bethlehem, is a beneficiary of NEF and the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women’s Advancing Women’s Business in Palestine. When her business of making souvenirs from olive wood for the dwindling tourist market was failing, she began using the same equipment to make toys and wooden puzzles for children. But since her experience in this new product line was limited, she experienced difficulty sourcing the equipment and supplies that matched the quality and estimated cost of acquiring a packaging machine, nontoxic coloring products, and raw materials.

The project enabled Claudia to connect to Helda Burbar from Ramallah, also a project beneficiary, who has three years of experience working in this field. Helda helped Claudia find the supplies she needed to move forward with her business.

During the initial training, Claudia also met Sana Hazboun, an entrepreneur from Bethlehem who started a business making homemade chocolate assortments, cupcakes, and cakes. The two women discussed joining forces to develop products.

They decided that Sana will continue to build on her expanding client base providing baked goods and candy for birthday parties at schools, which account for 18 orders per month. Claudia will produce toys and wooden puzzles for children to give as small gifts. Claudia and Sana are also preparing to produce chocolate assortments in wooden boxes and wooden gifts for such special occasions as Christmas.

“The project enabled me to expand my networks and opportunities by providing me with a platform to access technical and business support, collaborate with new suppliers, and cooperate with new entrepreneurs,” Claudia says.

The project team is working with each entrepreneur to improve her marketing strategy and expand her business connections. “Clearly, facilitating access to information will help inspire entrepreneurial growth and impact the long-term viability of their businesses. As Ihab Awad, head of the women’s department at Halhoul North Hebron Chamber of Commerce, says, “We at the Chamber of Commerce are very happy to coordinate with NEF to help women improve and scale up their projects. Women need something like AWBP to help them develop their businesses.”

Near East Relief Historical Society Launches Archival Museum

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TARRYTOWN, New York – The Near East Foundation (NEF) and the Near East Relief Historical Society (NERHS) are happy to announce the launch of our much-anticipated Near East Relief Digital Museum.

At the end of 2014, we launched a successful Kickstarter to drive our fundraising campaign. The museum was funded in full by January of 2015 and construction began in earnest that same month. We are happy to announce the site is now fully operational and can be visited at

The museum will grow to include additional items from our own collection as they are preserved and digitized; we will also solicit relevant digital documents from affiliate institutions. NERHS will memorialize each of the more than 1,000 relief workers and the Near East Relief leadership. This campaign will allow us to hire a talented web designer to build a beautiful interactive website.

The online museum is meant to be a resource for scholars, students, and anyone with an interest in this critical period in world history. It will serve as a repository for academic essays, articles, and teaching materials related to the Near East Relief. It will also create a vital community for the descendants of Near East Relief beneficiaries and volunteers, who will finally have a forum to share their memories and stories.

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The Near East Relief Digital Museum bears witness to the Armenian Genocide while celebrating the brave men and women of Near East Relief, a philanthropic organization that saved a generation and changed the face of humanitarianism.

NEF Strengthens Resilience to Climate Change in Mali & Senegal


SYRACUSE, New York – The Near East Foundation (NEF) and its partners are expanding efforts to build resilience to climate change among local populations in Mali and Senegal. With the Dakar-based Innovation, Environnement, Développement – Afrique (IED Afrique) and the London-based International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), NEF is implementing an innovative approach that supports local governments and communities to access funds and invest in adaptive strategies that build their resilience to climate change.

The project, which started in January, will work with communities in Mali’s Mopti Region and Senegal’s Kaffrine Region. The project is part of a larger program funded by the British government’s Department for International Development (DFID), Building Resilience and Adaptation to Climate Extremes and Disasters (BRACED).

The NEF Decentralizing Climate Funds project will help catalyze local control over climate investments through the development of project climate adaptation funds and inclusive planning processes. During the project’s first year, the teams are working with local communities, local goverments, and national partners to build the institutional infrastructure to support inclusive, transparent, and accountable planning and investments. In years two and three, local communities will identify and implement projects that they themselves have identified as most critical to improving their adaptive capacity and resilience.

Climate change is exacerbating already challenging environmental conditions in our target communities, which overwhelmingly depend upon agriculture and natural resources to sustain their livelihoods. Women, girls, and other vulnerable and marginalized populations – who often lack a sufficient voice in decisions that affect their wellbeing – are at greatest risk of falling deeper into poverty as temperatures rise and rainfall grows more variable across the region.

International climate finance is increasingly available to assist developing countries in mitigating the impacts of climate change. Though local governments in Mali and Senegal hold primary authority over natural resources management and adaptation, climate adaptation funds are presently channeled directly to national authorities or non-governmental organizations (NGOs). This approach fails to recognize and leverage strategies that communities have developed to manage risks associated with environmental variability – a norm in the Sahelian regions of Mali and Senegal.

The ongoing process of decentralization provides a structure of local governance that can be built upon to ensure that both decision-making authority and access to finance sits with those who are directly affected and best able to identify strategies for building local resilience. The Decentralizing Climate Funds project will test the evidence that local control can and does work, encourage national policymakers to take local adaptation strategies into account, and encourage national and regional investments in developing local governments’ institutional, technological and financial capacity. By institutionalizing change within existing government systems, the project marks a significant departure from the status quo by empowering governments to sustain adaptation planning and finance mechanisms beyond the life of this project.




To learn more about this project, visit NEF’s BRACED: DCF Project Page



This project is funded by UK Aid from the UK Government, however the views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of the UK Government.

Hawa, An Inspired Entrepreneur

DARFUR – Near East Foundation beneficiaries are known to be industrious and inspired when starting their enterprises. In Sudan, the beneficiaries of NEF and the United States Agency for International Development’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance’s Resources, Livelihoods, and Security project are no different. Walking through the markets of Abata, a small area southwest of the Central Darfur State capital of Zalingei, you will find Hawa Zakariya Mohamed, an NEF beneficiary and cloth seller. Hawa, 36, has a recently widowed niece with two children who fell on hard economic times.

“I benefited so much from NEF’s business training workshops,” Hawa says, “and I still remember every bit of it, so I began to teach my niece. Because I have had such good fortune from my business, I gave her money to start her own business.”

Hawa’s niece, 28, did just that. Using the tools and training Hawa taught her from NEF’s workshops, her niece began to sell traditional Sudanese foods in the same marketplace.

“She benefited from my advice and would always apply what she learned,” Hawa says. “My niece has now surpassed the hardship of life she had been in and she is moving forward. This has made me so content and satisfied.”




This story is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents are the responsibility of the Near East Foundation, and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States government.

Musa Mohamed’s Business Starts Cooking

Musa Adam Mohamed

DARFUR – Musa Adam Mohamed sits in his small business, selling kitchen utensils. He lives in the Abata area of Sudan, 35 kilometers west of Zalingei, the capital of Central Darfur State. Musa, 43, is a beneficiary of the Near East Foundation’s and the United States Agency for International Development’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance’s Resources, Livelihoods, and Security program. He decided to start this business as part of the NEF project because he noticed a need in the local market.

“I have solved the women’s problems regarding the purchases of the kitchen utensils, which are so important to them,” Musa says. “I make it so easy for them by selling them these commodities in reasonable prices and in convenient installments, especially for those who can’t pay immediately.”

Musa’s business sense and willingness to deal with his customers are paying off. His small business is expanding to the point that he is considering approaching a bank for a loan.

“I am thinking of starting something new in the big markets in Zalingei,” he says. “Thank you, NEF, and all the best for you in your efforts … You’re doing a wonderful job.”




This story is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents are the responsibility of the Near East Foundation, and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States government.


Palestinian Women Display Skills and Vision to Expand Their Businesses

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WEST BANK, February 2015 – Women play an integral role in the Palestinian economy. But many factors hinder their ability to launch and sustain viable businesses.

They face restrictions on their movements and security constraints. They have limited opportunities to meet successful role models and gain access to business associations. The majority of women-owned enterprises in Palestine are not registered with the Chamber of Commerce.

The Advancing Women’s Business in the Palestinian Territories project (AWBP), implemented by the Near East Foundation (NEF) in partnership with the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women and the Trafigura Foundation, aims to help Palestinian women entrepreneurs expand their businesses and drive economic development by supporting enterprises to be market- oriented, scalable, and generate jobs. The AWBP project focuses on the “missing middle” of women entrepreneurs, who have the potential to become an integral part of the small- and medium-sized enterprise sector, play a key role in revitalizing the Palestinian economy, and trigger social change.

In August 2014, more than 120 woman entrepreneurs attended events in Ramallah, Bethlehem, and Hebron that launched the project, which will provide them with the necessary skills and tools needed to take their business models to the next level. As a result of these events, more than 300 applications were received from moderate-sized businesses owned by women in the three target regions.

Initially, 114 applicants were selected for the intensive business and marketing training. After evaluation of their business plans and trainer feedback, the 60 top performing women entrepreneurs moved on the second phase of the project and are receiving intensive business coaching (additional applicants will join the project in 2015). In January 2015, 35 of these women entrepreneurs advanced to receive further one-on-one training, coaching, and financial support in an incubation-type process designed to quickly grow their businesses.

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Tailored training and support will not only strengthen the technical and managerial skills of the women entrepreneurs, but will also provide opportunities for the women to discuss and share experiences, exchange ideas, and expand business connections and relationships among their peers. For instance, during the training session in Hebron, Abeer Badwai secured six orders for her pastries from other participants. “The training was the best location to market my pastries,” Abeer says.