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Women's Empowerment

Despite a long history of active female public and political engagement in the territories, Palestinian women still face crushing gender inequality in the public and private sectors. Global Communities works to respond to these realities and enact a vision where all social groups, including women, are able to full participate in local governance. Global Communities gender strategy aims to 1) understand the context, 2) anticipate and respond to gaps and needs, and 3) create space for future initiatives.

Understanding the Context

In 2012, under the Local Government and Infrastructure Program (LGI), funded by USAID, Global Communities conducted a Gender Assessment of the Local Government sector to analyze access, quality of service delivery and other key criteria to understand how women in Palestine participate in local government. A comprehensive look at gender and local governance in the West Bank & Gaza, this analysis has informed the gender strategy for the LGI program, and has been shared with the Ministry of Local Government and other key stakeholders.

Responding to Gaps and Needs

According to its gender strategy, Global Communities regularly reviews interventions to ensure gender sensitivity, promoting gender-sensitive infrastructure and policies that support female engagement in local governance, such as providing childcare or allowing for accompaniment to workshops and other events away from home. Additionally, Global Communities works with municipalities to ensure basic levels of participation for women across the LGI program, including:

  • Ensuring that municipalities implement outreach efforts to alert community members, including women, about new citizen service centers or other service
  • Implementing targeted awareness campaigns for women - explaining what interventions will be implemented and how - to help them feel more comfortable and confident in their own participation
  • Ensuring that architectural designs, for Citizen Service Centers, roads and schools are gender-sensitive

Creating Space for Future Initiatives

As the LGI program evolves, Global Communities regularly reviews how to create additional space to empower more women to be active participants in local governance. Planned activities include:

  • Providing opportunities for female council members and community members to lead and participate in local development
  • Introducing a Women Role Model initiative to encourage young girls to enter traditionally male-dominated fields, such as engineering. 

In Their Words

Engineer Nadine Rishmawi, 25, worked with Global Communities through the 2011 Engineering Fellows Program, funded by USAID and implemented in partnership with the Engineer's Association Jerusalem Center. The program provided her with hands-on, paid work experience to develop professional skills and to prepare for the job market. 

Nadine, a native of Bethlehem, worked  on project sites that included schools, roads and youth clubs, before being chosen as a Green Fellow, another Global Communities initiative. As part of her green engineering internship, Nadine traveled to the UAE to work with the well-known engineering firm Khatib & Alami.

Says Nadine, "I had a blank CV before I came here but when I finished the program my CV was full. It made me feel good that I had real work experience. On the technical level I learned about project design and supervision. We also went to seminars...and training workshops."

Nadine went on to receive her Green Associate Certificate from the United States Green Building Council. By the end, she says, "I was thinking Green!"

Following her internships, Nadine found a position with the Centre for Cultural Heritage Preservation in Bethlehem, specialized in protecting, restoring and managing heritage resources. Her advice to new graduates? "Try to get experience from other engineers because you can't reach where you are without the help of someone who has experience. Students must start preparing themselves for the job market from the moment they enter university."

And in 5-10 years? Nadine says, "I hope to be working on green building projects, and applying green building practices in the country." We hope the same. Mabrook, Nadine!

Previous Programs for Women's Empowerment in the West Bank & Gaza

The Policies and Opportunities for Women Entrepreneurs Readiness program (POWER): Developed to help women increase their income, long-term employment prospects and social standing to enable meaningful participation in the political, economic and social development of their communities in the West Bank & Gaza.

Key accomplishments under POWER

  • Facilitated female participation in local economies: The program identified necessary reforms to facilitate women’s participation in local economies
  • Facilitated regional market networks: POWER eventually created a platform for a Palestinian Women’s Handicraft Entrepreneur’s Association and Regional Handicraft Network throughout the Middle East.
  • Provided business training to female entrepreneurs: Through POWER, more than 100 women entrepreneurs were provided with design and business training to establish handicraft businesses and market their crafts through local NGOs. 

Upon its completion in 2008, POWER directly helped more than 100 women - more than two and half times the original target of 40 women - to improve their business production and generate increased net revenue.

Local Democratic Reform Program (LDR) - Aqraba Women’s and Health Center: The Center, built in 2010 in the town of Aqraba, was selected and designed through a joint municipality-community effort facilitated by Global Communities as part of the Local Democratic Reform program to increase the capacity of Palestinian Local Government Units to better serve their citizenry and adopt democratic participatory approaches at the local and national levels.

The Center consists of a women’s building built near an already existing health building to provide close proximity for women accessing programs from both centers. The buildings, constructed by Global Communities with funding from USAID and the local Nablus Governorate, were one of many civic infrastructure projects undertaken by the Global Communities-led Local Democratic Reform program, which seeks to enhance local governments’ ability to provide civic services to its citizens.