Innovative Entrepreneurs Pave the Way in Northern Palestine

A February 3, 2016 Forbes magazine report highlights the ways in which “women entrepreneurs are creating new and innovative work environments that cater to an evolving and modern workforce.” This sentiment could not ring more true for TYO’s Advancing Palestinian Women Entrepreneurs (APWE) participants who must come up with creative and boundary-breaking ways to maintain successful businesses given the political context in which they work. As APWE wraps up its first phase of business development trainings and coaching sessions, we had the chance to interview Manar Shab’an, an APWE entrepreneur who uses community involvement and inventive business practices to help lead the way for woman-led entrepreneurship in Northern Palestine. Manar Shab'an pauses for a photo during the Business Plan Development Group Coaching session.

Tell us about yourself and how you became an entrepreneur:

I was born and raised in al-Jalame, Jenin and am the mother of five children. I am very active in my community and am one of the co-founders of al-Jalame Women’s Society, an organization committed to the empowerment of the village’s women and children. In addition to my active membership in al-Jalame Women’s Society, I am also a member of five additional community-based organizations. Because I did not have the opportunity to attend university, I use my community work and service as a way to develop and empower myself and to gain a better understanding of my rights as a woman in Palestinian society. While I initially started my vegetable growing business for financial reasons, as my enterprise succeeded, I began to reap many other benefits. I began to realize the importance of being economically independent, and as I generated more income, I was able to establish myself as one of the primary decision-makers in my family.

How did you hear about TYO and the Advancing Palestinian Women Entrepreneurs Program and what are you learning from the trainings and coaching sessions? 

I learned about Tomorrow’s Youth Organization (TYO) and the Advancing Palestinian Women Entrepreneurs (APWE) program through the Jenin Chamber of Commerce and have learned many important lessons as an APWE entrepreneur. While I have attended accounting and bookkeeping trainings in the past, the training I received from the Small Enterprise Center (SEC) was of especially high quality. I found it incredibly beneficial to receive an accounting workbook on which I now write my expenses, profit, and loss. Through SEC, I learned that I must account for all of my expenses. I am now learning how to decipher my profit and, in turn, how to more accurately determine the prices of my products.

Prior to joining APWE, I had both an embroidery and vegetable business. After one of SEC's trainings, I realized that there was more earning potential in only continuing with my vegetable business. It was during the training that I realized I must think of creative ways to grow my vegetables in the face of the limited access I have to my village’s land. I learned that in order to make a profit under this social and political context, I must come up with creative, “out of the box” business approaches.

How do you see yourself benefitting from APWE in the future?

Before I joined APWE, I thought I knew everything about how to operate my business. I now realize I was mistaken! I do not intend on missing any of the trainings because there will always be something new for me to learn. I am excited to learn how to register with the Chamber of Commerce as that has been a long-standing goal of mine.

Vanessa, Women's Empowerment Program Coordinator

Interviewed conducted by Futoon Qadri