Business Women Forum holds its annual Symposium “Unleash The Leader In You”

With a large female entrepreneurs attendance from all over the West Bank and from the Gaza Strip via video conference as well as community leaders and civil organizations that support women entrepreneurs, BWF - Palestine held its annual Symposium entitled: “Unleash the leader in you” funded by Spark and under the patronage of the Minister of National Economy, Dr. Mohammad Mustafa.

During the meeting that was held at Leaders Hall in Ramallah, the importance of entrepreneurship, the role of BWF plays in encouraging female entrepreneurs, in addition to the services the Business Development Center- the technical arm of BWF, provides in supporting female entrepreneurs and developing their projects and businesses to economically empower them were discussed.

In her opening speech, Chairwoman of BWF’s Board of Directors, Ms. Maha Abu Shousheh, welcomed the attendance by saying that the annual meeting aims at supporting of entrepreneurship, sharing key success stories and experience, highlighting the importance of female entrepreneurs, and overcoming the obstacles before them. The meeting came in conjunction with the anniversary of Land Day and the importance of our young men and women standing in this land to start, develop their future, and overcome all obstacles most importantly the occupation.

Ms. Abu Shousheh added that BWF helps female entrepreneurs, through BDC, by providing them with counseling and mentoring, preparing business plans and feasibility studies in different sectors, assessing the available marketing prospects, building capacities, enhancing skills; and providing support in the technical, administrative, financial and marketing areas, as well as networking with local and international markets and identifying marketing services for them.

Ms. Abu Shousheh stressed that training and networking open more prospects and opportunities for the entrepreneurs to play a bigger role in contributing to the national economy.

On his part, Undersecretary of the Ministry of National Economy Dr. Tayseer Amr said it was an occasion that reflects the creative Palestinian spirit of all its classes and the flux that refuses to sleep.  Dr. Amr commended the Palestinian woman wherever she is especially in the Gaza Strip and the camps of the Diaspora stressing the importance of these events, which aim at enabling the Palestinian woman and enhancing her entrepreneurial role in serving the Palestinian national economy.

Dr. Amr called for the necessity of empowering Palestinian woman and allowing her to practice her entrepreneurial role freely and effectively in the society.  He also commended the BWF for its role in reviving and promoting entrepreneurship among women.

First Panel: Working together towards a Brighter Entrepreneurship and Leadership Future

The first Panel addressed Working together towards a Brighter Entrepreneurship and Leadership Future and was moderated the Director General of Industry and Natural Resources at the Ministry of National Economy, Ms. Manal Farhan.

Mr. Samir Huleileh, the CEO of PADICO holding, said that entrepreneurship means the ability to cope with risks and work out of the ordinary.  He considered that the private sector is the engine of the economy and development in Palestine noting to the obstacles the female entrepreneurs face that include the occupation, customs, and traditions that prevent women's participation in addition to self failure and low self-esteem.

On the other hand, Mr. Shadi Atshan, Managing Director of Leaders Organization, stressed on the increasing interest and awareness in the field of technological entrepreneurship, where the lack of 3G network hindered the technology development as well as obstacles and control of the land, water and crossings by the occupation in addition to the technical skill level the graduates need to qualify to enter the labor market.

Ms. Rula Al-Shunnar, Representative of Silatch in Palestine and Jordan, expressed her pride of the female entrepreneurs who were able to overcome the barriers and obstacles which paved the way for a generation of entrepreneurs to innovate.  She said that social and legal consequences are the most important external obstacles facing entrepreneurship in addition to some internal obstacles relating to the female entrepreneur herself including lack of self-esteem, reluctance, and not taking the risk.

Al-Shunnar stressed the importance of facing the internal obstacles first with will and strength to achieve entrepreneurship, excellence, and participation in the decision making in key society institutions.

Second Panel: Role Model- Make an Impact

The second Panel moderated by Ms. Sahar Othman, the Executive Director of the Palestinian Center of Youth Economic Empowerment/Shrek, addressed Role Model- make an Impact and success stories of some of the female entrepreneurs and how the BWF helped and provided them with support, counseling, and guidance and connected them with local and international institutions and markets in addition to providing them with study and networking trips regionally and internationally.

 The first success story was of Ms. Abeer Abu Ghaith, founder and CEO of Stay Linked, a company that works as a mediator between local, Arab, and international companies that need commercial services and Palestinian human resources online.  Stay Linked managed to create jobs for a good number of women especially from Gaza Strip.

Ms. Ikhlas Shuli, Owner and Manager of Palestinian House of Soap that was established in 2002 in Nablus and produces soap out of olive oil with herbs providing six job and fifteen training opportunities for women.

Last but not least, Razan Jabr, Owner of Sugar Cake project, where she established her own business "Sugar Cake" after she left work in her own dental clinic for her passion of professionally decorated cake preparation and managed to develop herself and move her work from the kitchen to a factory and a shop.

All the successful female entrepreneurs shared the audience with their success stories and the main challenges and obstacles they faced through their careers and did not spare any effort in advising female entrepreneurs.  They also stressed the role of the Business Development Center and its importance in creating entrepreneurial environment for women and in helping them to build a future full of successes.

It is worth mentioning that, on the side of the meeting, a special exhibition of BDC members was held that included Palestinian embroidery, handcrafts and accessories, and soap in addition to different gifts of some of the female entrepreneurs participants.

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