This commitment will start with a one-year pilot project with four phases: skill and business plan development, business incubation, marketing and distribution, and evaluation. The project will directly engage 35-45 women: 25 university students/recent unemployed graduates and 10-20 additional craftswomen with economic need and the qualifications necessary for the pilot business.
The first phase will focus on training provided by the technical partner, the Small Enterprise Center (SEC) in Ramallah, oPt. SEC uses the Competency-based Economies, Formation of Enterprise (CEFE) methodology developed by GTZ and used in 400 projects in 130 countries. CEFE training is customized according to the target group, but results in each participant's creation of a business plan. In addition, other local and international organizations will provide training and mentorship for participants in the first and second phase under a coherent training curriculum designed by TYO and SEC. Stakeholders will then identify the most viable business plans to be pursued in the second phase. Other participants will be free to pursue their business plans independently, and may be offered support depending on partner capacity and resources.
The second phase will be focused on the pursuit of a few business plans, including additional support from trainers and mentors. Depending on their progress, a single product 'leader' will emerge for incubation throughout the rest of the project. Project partners will support this one business, identifying and training its leaders and staff, and refining and creating the product and a corresponding marketing strategy.
The third phase - determining a market strategy including the assessment of legal and logistical issues related to the distribution of the goods - will begin in parallel with phase two.
Finally, in phase four a thorough evaluation of the project will be carried out in order to compile lessons learned before scaling up to include more women and possibly other geographical areas.
A full-time local project manager will be recruited by and report to TYO's international director. Each partner (CBFW, SEC and TYO) will appoint a project focal point to implement and monitor the project. A local steering committee of public and private sector representatives will meet quarterly to provide advice and support for the project and its participants' enterprise development.
The Cherie Blair Foundation for Women (CBFW) and Tomorrow's Youth Organization (TYO) developed a partnership following an initial introduction at CGI 2008. The partnership was consolidated by a CBFW visit and working session at TYO Nablus in May 2009. The commitment reflects a synergy between the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women with Mrs. Blair's experience and commitment to promoting women's economic independence, the established presence and local knowledge of Tomorrow's Youth Organization in Nablus, and the technical expertise of the Small Enterprise Center.
TYO has witnessed the existing but often underutilized human capital of female university students and the serious economic needs of less privileged women in Nablus. Since Mrs. Blair and her Foundation staff visited TYO, they have worked closely together to develop a pilot project reflecting their individual strengths and expertise. While there are other economic empowerment projects underway in the oPt (Occupied Palestinian Territories), they tend to overlook the marketing aspect and the need for strong support in this area. Thus, the CBFW-TYO project will make use of CBFW's large international network of individuals and private sector contacts to respond to and create market opportunities. Based on this information, the third partner (Small Enterprise Center) will design training to adapt participants' existing traditional skills (i.e. embroidery) to design and produce goods that reflect demand and market opportunities, ensuring their competitiveness in the regional (and possibly global) market. The project will make economic use of the recent ease of passage through the main Nablus checkpoint (Huwara) while taking into account persisting barriers to export.
Nablus is a strategic location for this project. An important hub of Palestinian culture, Nablus was also a robust economic center until it was surrounded by military checkpoints after the outbreak of the Second Intifada. Closures present a major obstacle to movement of people and goods in and out of the city, which severely damaged Nablus's economy. As a result, most businesses and organizations have moved the majority of their operations to Ramallah (~30 km South of Nablus, seat of the Palestinian Authority). The exponential growth of the commercial and residential population of Huwara, the village located immediately outside the main point of entry to Nablus, provides further evidence of the damage to Nablus's economy and the relocation of human capital. In July 2009, however, passage through Huwara into Nablus was significantly eased. It is our hope that the launch of this project will encourage business coming back to Nablus to take advantage of this new opportunity for commerce.
The economically deprived population (in particular, women, youth, and residents of the refugee camps), frequently lacks access to resources such as transport, land, water and economic opportunity, which together with Nablus's closures have eliminated most economic activity. According to the 2007 Census conducted by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, of 113,834 Nablus Governorate residents over 10 years old, only 11,967 are economically active and 54,970 were reported to be 'housekeeping,' most of them women. A recent PCBS report provides further insight about women in the labor force. In the West Bank, 68.3% of men participate in the labor force, versus 17.1% of women. Official unemployment within this West Bank labor force was 19% in 2008, but 23.8% for women, 30.9% for 15-24 year olds, and 22% for university graduates.
SEEKING: The main need at this point is assistance in supporting the women in launching their businesses in Nablus. Many of them are locally-focused services, but at least a few will have products for distribution. Help from CGI and partners in getting the word out about their products would be extremely useful, as well as providing advice about how best to market and distribute their products. This is especially important as this commitment heads into a second phase in both Nablus and hopefully soon in Lebanon, which will focus more explicitly on building capacity among producers and artisans. The commitment would benefit from universities or independent researchers interested providing expertise for impact evaluation and eventually publishing articles in peer reviewed journals. Finally, media opportunities will facilitate the ability to raise future funds to build on the current success of the commitment by reaching more people in more communities.
- Arabic-speaking mentors for our participants would be valuable, particularly individuals willing to provide small amounts of seed funding ($500-$5000) for their mentee's business.
- Additional funding to complement the second phase of the project would enable international internship placements, improved training materials and a third training cycle to engage 20 additional women, increasing direct and indirect beneficiary numbers by 50%.
OFFERING: The opportunity to share the experience with others interested in working in the Middle East, or in other conflict areas that might have similar conditions in Nablus.
We're always happy to share our experience in the area of micro/small business development for women in the Middle East.