At my current position at Anera, I have been fortunate enough to put my training from academia into applied practice. This summer, I visited one of our women’s economic empowerment projects in Qalqilya, Palestine, a project that was the result of one of the first successful grant applications that I had submitted with Anera.
Recently, I was fortunate to take my first visit to Anera’s country offices in Lebanon and Palestine. In my previous life in academia, my research related to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Finally seeing the places I had written about moved me in ways I could not have predicted.
While in Palestine, I traveled through much of the West Bank. My country office colleagues narrated the way, telling me about their homeland.
One of the most beautiful places we visited was the city of Qalqilya. Picture a sub-tropical Los Angeles surrounded by farms, with beautiful sandstone buildings and streets lined with palm trees and bougainvillea. Qalqilya is situated in the West Bank, near the 1949 Armistice border with Israel. It is a vibrant city, full of fresh fruits and vegetables. The climate there is perfect for growing everything.
We went to Qalqilya to visit one of the training sessions for Anera’s Women Can program, generously funded by Islamic Relief USA. The goal of Women Can is to give women a means to earn their own income.
Anera identified 100 women who are heads of household and who have an idea for a small business that will help them support themselves and their families. Most of these women had little or no income, yet they shouldered the heavy responsibility of being the primary breadwinner for their families. Some of them are divorced or widowed. Others have spouses with chronic health problems. All of these women support at least five children or other dependents.
Some women already have a business but need assistance to be able to scale it up. Others are starting from scratch. The businesses are based on the local market and the interests and skills of each woman.
Anera provides marketing and business classes to the women, mentoring and training in their particular areas of interest, and a start-up grant to buy the equipment they need to pursue their plans. For example, we might purchase a sewing machine, kitchen appliances, or a professional-quality camera — the tools essential to each woman’s small venture.