Last December in Palestine CISP organized a technical workshop bringing together relevant actors – the Gender Unit of the Ministry of National Economy, private and banking sector, civil society organizations, and international cooperation agencies, including AICS – to discuss on a very practical level the gaps and good practices for facilitating access to micro-credit and financial opportunities for small businesses led by women across all Palestine.
Findings where then shared in a second workshop which took place last February, this time open to the public and to entrepreneurs. All speakers underlined the importance of considering and valuing the gender dimension of entrepreneurship when developing, communicating, and managing micro-financing programs. Different agencies came to the event with their stands and materials, and directly explained their financing programs, the criteria, and procedures for access to interested youth and women, realizing a very effective exchange moment.
This workshop was part of a large event – the Yunus Social Business Festival 2023, organized in the Bethlehem University’ campus, also as a joyful occasion to celebrate the Start Your Business! project closure. Over 400 persons participated in the two-day festival, that included a bazaar for the public to discover products and services of the 90+ Palestinian start-ups incubated and supported through the project; technical workshops; presentation of success stories of entrepreneurs; and contributes from different stakeholders in presenting achievements and discussing possible ways forward.
In recent years, in multiple occasions CISP was told by women entrepreneurs about the lack of updated and clear information regarding financial support mechanisms available to micro businesses in Palestine, and how to access them. Jerusalem-based businesses appeared particularly challenged by having to deal also with the demanding requirements and procedures imposed by the authorities, with the costs connected to operating in the city’ area, and with the limited possibilities to exchange and learn from others, while being progressively detached from the rest of the West Bank and of the country.
So much can and has still to be done to support sustainable economic growth in Palestine and ensure that the most marginalized members of its society have a role and effectively benefit from it. Still, the achievements of the Start Your Business! project testify the importance of the coordinated work of multiple agencies, committed to a shared mission. Most importantly, the spotlight was always given to Palestinian women and youth, whose innovative, creative, effective, and impactful ideas and efforts where promoted, connected, and strengthened, to continue in their role of agents of change.
The Start Your Business! project aimed at promoting sustainable and inclusive economic growth in Palestine – with a focus on Jerusalem, Hebron, and Bethlehem governorates – by multiple integrated actions that included research, business incubation and acceleration, vocational trainings, and awareness raising campaigns for a more enabling environment where youth and women entrepreneurs are recognized and supported as agents of change and development.
CISPs’ activities in the project – which just closed – included a study on 200+ women-led enterprises in the target areas, to capture challenges and potentials for sustainability and better tailor support programmes; facilitating training sessions on business development and entrepreneurship; mapping the actors engaged in women and youth’ economic empowerment in East Jerusalem and establishing connections among them and with actors based in the West Bank; implementing public events, forums and technical workshops to promote Palestinian women entrepreneurship. In close collaboration with VIS and the partner Bethlehem University, CISP lead the development of communication, information, and awareness materials, that were then used by all project’s partners to promote the available services, share the knowledge generated throughout the years, and engage different stakeholders.
Since 1997, CISP is active in Palestine having implemented over 50 humanitarian and development interventionstrough collaboration with local communities, local authorities, public and private actors, and partnerships with civil society organizations.
CISP’s strategy in Palestine is articulated across different sectors – including health, food security, WASH, and socio-economic development for the most marginalized communities and groups – in East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip, and different areas of the West Bank. In the economic development sector, CISP worked for strengthening small-scale businesses and vocational trainings for women and youth of the Old City of Jerusalem; supporting the establishment of cooperatives with the Bedouins in the Jordan Valley; and developing sustainable tourism plans and products to promote less-knows communities of Hebron and Bethlehem’s governorates. Moreover, during the last 3.5 years, CISP’ teams worked to empower youth and women engaged or interested in entrepreneurship, in particular (but not only) from the Jerusalem’ area, in the frame of the Start Your Business! project.