The Road to Tulkarem is Paved in Gold

Last Saturday I had the pleasure of taking a weekend trip to visit four entrepreneurs from the Women’s Incubation Services for Entrepreneurs II (WISE II) program. In August 2014, Tomorrow’s Youth Organization and PalTel Group Foundation (PGF) launched WISE II, a program that enhances women-led micro and small enterprises in marginalized areas in northern Palestine. WISE II empowered high-potential Palestinian women through an innovative, holistic, and intensive business incubation. Through skills based training, coaching, and incubation, WISE II was a strategic multi-phase program to build the capabilities, confidence and access to capital for women entrepreneurs in Palestine.

WISE II women pose for a photo during after a productive day of English class.

As a Zahi Khouri Fellow in Spring 2015, I had the honor of accompanying the WISE women through one of the last phases of their entrepreneurship journey by teaching them an intensive lesson of Business IT and Business English. Through that experience I learned that entrepreneurs in Northern Palestine are visionaries who are not afraid of the hard work and the rigor that any small business demands.

I had not seen most of the women since Spring, so decided to dedicate a Saturday to visiting Tulkarem and its surrounding villages. The entrepreneurs and I had an opportunity to enjoy Tulkarem’s gold market, take a walking tour of the city center, and enjoy a delicious meal prepared by one of the women who owns and operates a catering business. We also had an opportunity to discuss the current status of their business, challenges they are facing professionally, as well as upcoming development opportunities through our newest entrepreneurship program, Advancing Palestinian Women Entrepreneurs (APWE).

This trip reminded me that while there is always important work to do inside a workshop, a meeting, or a training, it is equally important to get to know a TYO entrepreneur in her home as a way to show respect, deepen a burgeoning relationship, and create trust. I look forward to continuing to work alongside the women when APWE trainings begin and I eagerly await another trip to Tulkarem in the coming months.

Vanessa, Women's Empowerment Program Coordinator