Gaza women while training in Najahuha project
Exclusive to Environment and Development Horizons (Afaq magazine):
With a vigilant movement advised by daily practice, Huda Abu Khoussa guides with an almond-tree branch a herd of goats grazing in the open areas of the Gaza Strip.
Not only that. Huda, 24 years old, now has advanced training skills, after three long years of studying and hard work. She had participated, and got deeply involved, in a training that targeted tens of her mates. It is a training program within the Najahuha Project.
Najahuha Project (She Succeeds: Empowering Young Palestinian Women Entrepreneurs in the Agriculture Sector) is a joint project between Maan Development Center, Agricultural Development Association/Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees, and Save the Children. The program, which targets females between 15 -29 years old, will work in the West Bank (Jordan Valley, Nablus, Tulkarem and Jenin) and across the whole of the Gaza Strip.
When Huda received the admission to the training after the positive evaluation she achieved, she rejoiced saying “I couldn’t express my happiness. I felt that the effort I had put did not go to waste”.
The young Palestinian had competed with a number of applicants from various specializations and experiences, on which she commented “the project has made a quantum leap in the lives of women, and has put them on the right path in the entrepreneurial sector”.
Filled with joy, she adds “my life was not an easy one, nor was it padded with roses. Rather, I faced a series of hardships which only intensified by the day, due to societal customs and traditions”.
But the young Abu Khoussa, the eldest in a family of ten, confronted the hardships by holding on to her studies. She explains that she has agreed to work as a shepherd, submitting to her father’s immense insistence, only if she is allowed to pursue her studies till she gets her high school diploma.
Najahuha Project, according to Haya Abu Rayya, the coordinator in Gaza, targets, over the 4 years cycle, about 500 women and female youths between the ages 19-29, and another 1000 in the West Bank, in addition to 1200 pupils between the ages 15-18.
The gender-transformative project responds to the gender-based social, economic, and institutional barriers which hinder young women’s agency and entrepreneurship opportunities in the agriculture sector.
Years passed, and Abu Khoussa got her high school diploma. But her joy in this big achievement suffered a setback, especially after her father got seriously ill, thus unable to attend to the family needs.
“Being the eldest” says Huda, “I was the only breadwinner next to my mother. I did not have option other than doing my utmost best to complete my university studies, and secure a job that enables me to provide for my family’s needs”.
Obstacles beleaguered the young woman, burdening her with all sorts of worries after her father passed away in 2014. And yet, she did not give up on her goal. She was able to enroll in Al-Quds Open University through a scholarship, and with hard work and perseverance, all through the four years of studies, she fulfilled her promise to her mother and graduated with a high grade of 91.9.
Najahuha Project was the lifeline for Huda Abu Khoussa. It helped her to pursue her studies, and yet to help her family as much as possible in facing the harsh economic conditions her family was passing through, due to the continuing Israeli siege that struck various aspects of life in the Gaza Strip inhabited by over two million.
Abu Khoussa is not the only girl to get an opportunity to complete her studies. Najahuha Project has helped empower tens of college students. It has adopted 17 female students in Modern Agriculture at the University College of Applied Sciences, 12 female students in Business Entrepreneurship at Gaza University, and 20 female students at Palestine Technical College, in addition to 10 female students at Gaza Community College for Tourist and Applied Studies.
Najahuha Project also targeted about 125 employees of organizations, universities, and companies in Gaza, as well as a number of nine-grade teachers in UNRWA schools, of which 41% were females. After concluding the training, 80% of the participating women were chosen to work as trainers.
Huda Abu Khoussa was one of those chosen. Her project was based on three main pillars: addressing the knowledge barriers facing young women, and the entrepreneurial skills in the agricultural sector.
Abu Khoussa’s project also included developing and strengthening the local educational and training platforms and centers. This element took into consideration the differences between the sexes, so it aimed at developing the skills of the females to help them better integrate in the labor market and the entrepreneurial sector, especially in non-traditional sectors, as the green economy.
Abu Khoussa’s success, in both her studies and training, enabled her to become a trainer who helps and others and develops their capabilities.
Najahuha Project does not stop there. According to Haya Abu Rayya, it will work on increasing women’s accessibility to counseling services in the field of project management and networking with markets, as well as increasing their accessibility to and control of financial resources.
Translated by: Carol Khoury