“This project is my dream that started with a small idea that got developed.”
Those words come from Montaha Masalma, one of the 16 Palestinian Heritage Trail service providers from Beit Awwa, Hebron, who recently received a fund from the CROSSDEV project. Montaha is a soap maker who produces and sells natural soaps that have many benefits for all types of hair and skin, made from locally sourced materials. Her organic products are aimed at locals and soon-to-come guest hikers visiting the Palestinian Heritage Trail, which is currently being developed within the CROSSDEV project.
Montaha has received a grant from the CROSSDEV project to support her vision and to provide her with the proper tools to create her soaps, such as kitchen supplies and creational utensils and materials. The project also enhanced her marketing vision and helped advertise her products. To serve that purpose, Montaha has made a presentation film, a brochure and a sign for her shop’s entrance, as well as a Facebook page, which could help reach an unlimited exposure.
“I decided to name the soap after a cultural heritage site in our region called Jorn Al Mamoura, for the purpose of reviving our heritage and promoting the location.”
Handpicked herbs are the essence of Montaha’s handmade soaps. The products are more than regular soaps, she aims to produce natural soaps using medical and aromatic herbs that grow in Beit Awwa village and its surroundings. All herbs are grown in the Palestinian nature, and are picked from along the PH Trail, therefore tourists will be encouraged to get such a unique souvenir from Palestine.
EMPOWERING WOMEN IN PALESTINE
Montaha’s initiative became a leading success for other women from Beit Awwa and the surrounding villages to follow. Beit Awwa is considered a conservative community, but Montaha was able to push beyond the community’s limitations, hopefully this will lead to future success stories of female initiatives.
Montaha explained that she feels empowered by the outcome of her project, because now she has her own business which will give her a monthly income. Her personality got stronger, especially during the time she was promoting her products. Her confidence has grown because she believes in what she is creating. She said:
“Friends and people who are close to me like my products and already experienced their benefits. But now with my grown confidence, I am able to reach a bigger audience of people from different communities and different towns.”
MUTUAL PROMOTION ALONG THE HIKING TRAIL
Within the CROSSDEV project’s partner Palestinian Heritage Trail developed a platform of network that allows all service providers to connect and know about each other’s project for support. This network has helped Montaha to arrange visits with service providers from other villages/cities like Battir, Beit Mirsim, Jaba’a, Ethna and Sikka to advertise her products. This initiative helped her build a supportive network with surrounding towns. During those promotional visits, both parties got to learn about each other’s services and discussed areas of cooperation. For example, service providers such as homestays, restaurants, and women centers, have bought her products to use at their facilities and to also sell them and promote to visitors.
It did not all come easy for Montaha, she faced few challenges herself. Before receiving the grant, she followed her passion and took months’ worth of soap making courses, without any guarantees that she would receive the grant. During the project, she caught Covid, which thankfully managed to overcome safely but delayed the project implementation beyond her set deadline. Now, afterwards, she still faces the challenge of lack of tourism. All of that did not stop her though! Currently, her revenue relies on the cooperation she built with the local service providers, surrounding communities and orders she received through her Facebook page.
Montaha is overly excited to see what the future holds for her shop and products. She thankfully overcame the challenges and awaits with excitement to carry on building up her dream.
THE CROSSDEV PROJECT
Co-funded by the European Union through the ENI CBC MED Programme, CROSSDEV promotes policies and practices for sustainable tourism as a tool for the socioeconomic development of territories; it protects and enhance their natural, historical and cultural heritage getting inspiration from the Cultural Itineraries of the Council of Europe.
Besides Montaha's Mamoura Soap Shope, so far CROSSDEV has funded 15 more ideas of Palestinians from the villages located along the trekking trail Palestinian Heritage Trail.