APHEDA business training is helping challenge social norms about the capacity of women –led businesses. In Kufr Al-Ra’i, a conservative village in the northern parts of the West Bank. Ms. Fayzeh Mostafa runs a small business cooperative in her village producing pickled eggplants, olives, olive oil, pastries and olive-oil butter. Ms. Mostafa, like many businesswomen in Palestine, is undermined by a dominant social norm that women are not able to run proper businesses that can maintain quality standards, market products creatively, and manage complex finances. These social norms dictate that the roles of women in agriculture revolve around supporting their husbands to harvest and in basic processing to be sold to other women in the village.

The social norms in Kufr Al-Ra’i have also challenged Ms. Mostafa as a businesswoman, accusing her and the women she employs of neglecting their primary roles in their household. While Ms. Mostafa employs unemployed women graduates, she is regularly told by men and women in her community that women don’t have the ability to run a successful and competitive business.

APHEDA worked with Ms. Mostafa to identify how she could be strengthened as a role model in her village to encourage other women to participate in business skills trainings and pursue careers in business management. APHEDA encouraged Ms. Mostafa to nominate women in the village to attend the business training sessions; she did, which came with numerous challenges:

“After many unsuccessful attempts to persuade women who would gain the most value and benefits from attending the ASALA business training, I managed to convince only one young woman graduate, called Arwa, to attend at least the first day of the training”. While Arwa could see that working with Ms. Mostafa would be beneficial for her family income, she still had reservations about the use of business training and how her community would see her. Ms. Mostafa recalled that “she was not fully sure that the training would be of added value to her in the village; nor how working in the management and financial side of a business could be a good decision for her.”

During the first day of training, however, through meeting other businesswomen and seeing the practical nature of the training Arwa started to shift her thinking: “At first, I didn’t believe that women had the ability to run or own a business and to succeed in competing with established men-run businesses; but after I saw all the businesswomen at the training, their hard work, passion to succeed and outstanding projects, I developed confidence that women can manage and own any business equally as men”.

After completing the APHEDA business skills training Arwa started working with Ms. Mostafa at her business cooperative. She manages the business finances and contributes to business planning and marketing. With growing confidence evident in her own work, she now believes that she has took her first steps towards building a career path in business. Through working with Ms. Mostafa, she has increased her income and wants to encourage other women to see themselves as having the potential to become businesswomen.

For Ms. Mostafa, who also attended the training, reported that she has benefitted from networking with other women working in relevant fields. For example, she created an agreement with another businesswoman to sell her oil needed to produce pickled eggplants, while the other businesswoman, Ms. Sawsan, has offered to recommend women workers skilled in pickled eggplants production to enhance her supply base.