Nablus, West Bank (December 5, 2013) — A few months ago, Latifa Qasim saw a great business opportunity in her West Bank village of Haris.
She and other local women were traveling a few kilometers to a neighboring village every time they needed to buy spices for cooking. Latifa realized that there was a demand for these products in her community – and that she had the potential to meet this need. Less than five months later, Latifa turned her idea into an operational business with support from the Near East Foundation (NEF).
Latifa applied to an NEF program that helps Palestinian women in the West Bank achieve financial independence and security by starting their own small businesses. NEF conducts regular training workshops for women in microenterprise development and business management, then assists them in creating their business and marketing plans. The women submit their own market studies, feasibility analyses, and budgets for consideration to receive start-up funding.
Latifa testified to the effectiveness of the training sessions, saying “Learning accounting and marketing was so helpful.” With her skill of mixing spices and her new business training, Latifa started a spice trade from a small room in her house. She buys spices in bulk and repackages them for sale.
In a short period of time, word about her spices and their high quality spread. Village women now save time and invest in their community by supporting Latifa’s locally owned business. Because of her hard work in market research and her own financial contributions, Latifa received a project start-up grant of $300 to launch her business.
Latifa’s life has changed in many ways. “I am more self-confident now,” she remarked. “It means a lot for me to be self-sufficient and to have my own money from my own business.”
In total, NEF is providing training to 200 Palestinian women entrepreneurs like Latifa. 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%. This work is made possible by funding from the U.K.-based Rangoonwala Foundation, which shares NEF’s belief in empowering communities through sustainable, long-term economic development.
Just because Latifa finished the program doesn’t mean her affiliation ends. Some of the most effective help NEF provides women is ongoing business coaching and continued support through its growing network of entrepreneurs. This fosters peer advising and mentoring among small business owners to help women like Latifa address emerging challenges and stay in business well into the future.
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.