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Karama Supports Entrepreneurship

Supporting Business Development among Refugees
Making an impact where it matters

The Work We Do

Karama Organization mission in its core is creating opportunities for the most vulnerable in society. So that they can fully participate. In order for them to enjoy their full human rights. Who are those most vulnerable? Our target group are children growing up in refugee camps, and women leading low-income households. We are established in Deheishe Camp in Palestine and aim to serve those in need in the southern half of the West Bank.

The Situation in Palestine

Refugees' Challenges

In 2021, multiple factors contributed to the increased vulnerability of refugee communities in Palestine. This included the grim economic situation, but also volatile security situations, increased local tensions between settler communities and Palestinian communities and ongoing challenges of dealing with COVID19. Especially after lockdowns, many workers saw their businesses closed or severely reduced, leaving them with no stable income. Refugee camps also depend on UNRWA’s support, which is gradually decreasing, as UNRWA claims to have fewer and fewer resources available to them. With the lack of jobs and the rising unemployment, many people choose entrepreneurship to create their own income-generating businesses. Karama has helped vulnerable groups in refugee communities to start and develop their own businesses and means of living.

The Situation in Palestine

Entrepreneurship

Especially after the Oslo Accords, the Palestinian society is becoming more and more dependent on foreign aid and funding, which is most of the time conditioned and not sustainable, and it doesn’t aim to solve our people’s issues or even create a better society. It is hard to build a vibrant private sector under the many restrictions of the military occupation and its control over the Palestinian economy, which is dependent on the Israeli economy. As well, the donor community doesn’t help to remove these barriers at all, but it rather mitigates them with short-term solutions. Some of the donor projects working with female entrepreneurs are characterized by lack of relevant training, such as innovative and future-oriented skills and topics, and the lack of ongoing business coaching, and the needed marketing tools and skills for their beneficiaries. Moreover, Palestinian entrepreneurs, including women, are losing creativity and originality in their business ideas, and are just copying each other or foreign businesses. What we really need is a private sector that is valuable, sustainable, and promotes Palestinian resistance and self-reliance.

Palestinian and Refugee Women

Women's Challenges

Besides the general entrepreneurial problems that Palestinians face, female entrepreneurs face additional challenges. Most women in the camp do not have access to start-up funds, loans or other financial services. Women also might face negative perceptions in the business market, especially as business leaders. In a world that prefers dealing with men in business due to many excuses, women find it harder to reach a prestigious place in the business market. Moreover, many married women with children find it very hard to work efficiently due to lack of time and increased family responsibilities, such as taking care of the house and children and other obligations.

Our contribution and Activities

As the society remains very vulnerable to internal and external shocks, Karama is steadfast in its contribution to an inclusive economy and society where all can equally express their economic and human rights. We are committed to empowering women, youth, farmers and refugee residents in creating sustainable entrepreneurial projects that benefit them as well as their community.

Karama organizes workshops and various activities for women on a steady basis to teach them hard skills, such as agriculture, business and marketing, and soft skills, such as communication, building networks, and others. For example, we help women grow plants on their house rooftops, which helps solve food insecurity and generates food business. We also help and support farmers in their businesses.

 

Supporting Women and Society

Social Entrepreneurship

Karama Organization utilizes social entrepreneurship as a valuable path for refugee women, not only for the empowering effects of entrepreneurship (at individual and relational levels), but also because it can tap into the growing/recovering market and slowly increasing consumer demand. Thus, women now have more opportunities they can tap into, such as with the food production initiatives, handcraft projects and flower/seedling initiatives supported by Karama.

Rooftop Greenhouses stimulating Entrepreneurship

Since 2011 we have established rooftop greenhouses in the 5 refugee camps from Bethlehem and Hebron governorates. These small green spaces helped over 250 household to access more fresh produce, by learning how to plant and harvest their own crops with the guiding of agricultural engineers and the support of social workers.

Even during Covid19, over 90% of the women were able to continue working in their greenhouses and had a successful harvest season, ranging from 40 to 240 kilos of produce.

Karama’s rooftop greenhouses have proved to be green havens of recreation and self-development for the women, while enough vegetables were produced to relieve the budget of the family and improve their daily diet. Besides, the greenhouse stimulated the women’s own creativity and entrepreneurship allowing several women to produce food products in their own kitchen and sell in their community. One woman even started growing a special type of strawberry plant all over her roof and sell this to Karama and other local organizations!

“I clearly remember being so impressed when they placed the tubes on my roof, then the big bags of soil. We were depended in everything on the project’s agricultural engineers when we started. It has been three years and this year I have been dealing with the greenhouse all by myself.”

One of our participants (a 43-year-old woman) from Aida camp

Business Support and Grants

Karama has given an entrepreneurship support package to women with business projects.

1st: Selected women received training workshops

Training workshops included brief sessions on the following topics

  • Social & Communication Skills to help women in building partnerships and support
  • Technical Skills related to their business topics
  • Business / Entrepreneurial Skills to plan successfully for their business ideas
  • Financial literacy skills to document basic business transactions
  • Emotional and Self-care Skills to ensure women have healthy ways to deal with the daily levels of stress

2nd: Engaging the committed women to develop their ideas with the project staff into real, practical and evidence-based business plans.

3rd: Women’s selected ideas were assessed and the ones that scored well enough were given a support package consisting of:

  • financial literacy trainingbranding support (women developed high-quality logo and brand colors to stand out and be recognizable when promoting their products or services).

This was all done during times when COVID19 was still an impactful factor in Palestine, and personal interaction was still limited – but the team was highly motivated to make it work.

 

Makken

In 2012, Karama has started supporting a women-led social enterprise called “Makken,” meaning “empower.” Makken is the name of the food-production unit, store and bakery in which our women sell their products.

 Makken meets a social and market need, by creating employment and increasing availability of fresh and healthy products. This initiative consists of a kitchen for traditional food products as well as meals on delivery, secondly a bakery for both sweet and savory items, and finally a store for vegetables, herbs, spices and a range of healthy food products. We also integrated Makken with our rooftop greenhouses project in which women sell their greenhouse produce in our store. Coming from the rooftop greenhouses as well as some local farmers, delicious traditional food products are produced by the women collectively in Karama. We sell jams, pickles, dried yogurt, dried raisins, dried zaatar, dibs and more!

Starting the unit required much effort focusing on a variety of financial, economic and marketing aspects. Business development has been taken into account including health and safety standards, branding, packaging, high-quality inputs and market competition/demands. Different marketing channels have been established, with different options identified during business planning stages. Connections with local stores have been made to place the women’s products in larger stores. The foundation is built to grow into a profitable social business that can support different households from the camp.

Flower and Seedling Shop

Another set of activities implemented in 2021 with the support of some of our donors was small-scale entrepreneurial activities from 8 women from vulnerable households in three refugee camps in the southern West Bank. We selected and trained the women with the most feasible ideas and the highest commitment. Then, a small store was opened specifically for their products, including the flowers and seedlings prepared in the seedling nursery run by a woman in the camp.

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