Millennium Development Goals & Female Entrepreneurs in the Middle East

Most days at TYO, you’re likely to find our classrooms and conference room filled with eager members of The Women’s Group- and you’ll probably spot a few of Palestine’s businesswoman hard at work in some of our incubation offices, as well. But this month, you also might’ve seen our Women’s Empowerment Program staff all throughout the northern West Bank- from Tulkarem to Tubas, we’ve been out and about meeting female entrepreneurs who might be interested in joining FWEME (Fostering Women Entrepreneurs in the Middle East), our latest women’s economic empowerment partnership with the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women. TYO Women's Program Assistant Inas speaks with a  potential FWEME applicant.

Whether talking to a college student with an innovative IT idea or a mom with a mushroom-farming business, we’re continuously reminded of the need for programs like FWEME. But in addition to stories of potential businesswomen, our work is also reinforced by hard data- like this week’s release of the Millennium Development Goals Report 2013 by the United Nations. The MDG Report provides an update on worldwide progress to reaching the 8 Millennium Development Goals- and sheds special light on women's need for empowerment in the workforce.

Here’s a few highlights of the report that relate to our women's empowerment goals in Palestine, and demonstrate the ever-present need for female entrepreneurship programs like FWEME:

  • In developing parts of the world, women are more likely to work on farms or family businesses- with little or no financial security or social benefits. In our interviews, we’ve spoken with many women who’ve worked informally for their families for many years- but desire the economic independence & confidence that comes from being fairly compensated for your work.
  • In 2012, there was a 24.8% percentage point difference between men and women in the employment-to-population in 2012.  Palestine has one of the lowest female labor force participation rates in the world- and as we visit local Chambers of Commerce and similar municipalities, we continually encounter the very low numbers of women who own their own business or work outside the home here in the northern West Bank.
  • Around the world, 41% of men are online- compared with 37% of women. In the developing world, only 29% of women use the Internet. In our ever-interconnected world, it’s impossible to grow as a businesswoman unless you’re always growing your IT skills. But many don’t have access to basic computer education- and that’s why our entrepreneurship programs, as well as The Women’s Group, work to build Palestinian women’s online savvy- which helps builds women’s status in the economy.

So as we gear up to help more female CEOs and company-founders gain their footing in Palestine, we’re also looking forward to the ground that women will gain globally as we get closer to reaching the Millennium Development Goals.