When economic and education empowerment pave the way for success

education gaza
Hala, in the yellow scarf, assisting a staff member at the workshop in producing one of her designs through Al Fakhoorah Programme in Gaza

Divorced in 2010, Hala Da’lsa, 29, a refugee at Al Bureej Camp in Gaza, was left devastated and alone to provide for herself. She embarked on an uncertain journey to start her own business making long black traditional dresses—Abayas. Her chances of success were not high, but the stakes left no room for failure.

Highlights

  • 320 scholarships have been granted to Palestinian students from Gaza, 300 for bachelor degrees and 20 for masters
  • 300 scholars have economic empowerment interventions for their families
  • Specialized career advisory services are provided to students in addition to counseling to guide them through any of their challenges
  • Unemployment rate reached 35.6% among youth aged between 20 – 24 during the second quarter of 2012

“I was emotionally and physically drained and pessimistic, but I was so determined to transform my life,” recalls Hala. “I knew I could make a change, and help myself and my family, especially my poor father who devoted every effort to make us happy, but the situation in Gaza did not help him. I am so happy that I am finally managing my own design business.”

In an area marred with protracted conflicts and with six years under continuous siege, economic development and education were uncharted territory in Gaza. To address rising poverty and unemployment, currently at 45 and 28 per cent respectively, UNDP’s “Productive families Economic Empowerment Programme—DEEP” initiated Al Fakhoora Dynamic Future’s programme. The programme aims at building a cadre of educated and trained leaders who are civic-minded, intellectually able, and professionally skilled to become business, community, and national leaders of the future.

The programme also provides opportunities for Palestinian postsecondary students to actualize their professional and leadership potential through a scholarship component along with soft skills development and career advisory services. In addition, students’ families who are classified as extremely poor, according to a poverty assessment, are given micro-grants for business start-ups, based on their resources and abilities.

Hala’s family of eight living in absolute poverty, yet with high potential for human capital development, was one of the households identified by DEEP’s AlFakhoora Programme. With a diploma in fashion design that she never used due to her marriage, Hala submitted a grant application to start a small sewing unit at home. The programme provided her with the requisite tools including a sewing machine and training in business planning and bookkeeping.

Hala makes custom Abayas based on orders from clients for specific designs. In few months, her financial records showed a net income of USD 300 a month. By March 2011, Hala had already started a small workshop, increased her assets and employed an old female colleague mate and a male cousin who was unemployed for at least 6 years.  

Rapidly her business grew and she expanded her workshop, adding new machines, and employing two more skilled workers and three interns. By 2012, Hala was making USD 700 as net income after paying salaries for four people ranging between USD 250 to USD 300, an income that helped their families to survive.

“Now my father is helping me as my business grows. His spirit has much improved and he is feeling more productive,” Hala said.   
In 2011, Al Fakhoora also awarded Hala’s sister Salam, a scholarship to pursue her higher education at Al-Quds Open University in Gaza.

“I never dreamt of such generous support. I am finally going to fulfil my dream of going to university,” exclaimed Salam. “Al Fakhoora helped me, not only with tuition fees but also with the transportation and books allowance. Last year after finishing secondary school, I knew that my father could not afford to help me and our household expenses were consuming all Hala’s income from her new business.” Salam explained.

Salam is currently a top student in her class and recently, Hala has also joined the university to study Business Administration. “This was my ambition,” says Hala. “My business is stable now, and I am already receiving large orders from wholesalers. I feel this will be a productive year, but my dream is to scale up the business and have several branches across Gaza.”

DEEP is a USD 48 million poverty reduction programme, funded by the Islamic Development Bank and implemented across the West Bank and Gaza by UNDP. To date, the Programme has created 12,000 permanent employment opportunities through grants for micro enterprises and has helped over 66,000 families to graduate from poverty to economic self-reliance.

Al Fakhoora Dynamic Futures Programme is worth USD 6.85 million and funded bilaterally by the State of Qatar’s Al Fakhoora Campaign and the Islamic Development Bank (IDB).