Women’s empowerment: the RUWOMED project supports rural income-generating activities in Lebanon and Palestine

Our first article of 2016 is a story of hope and dignity. In Gaza, the West Bank and in Lebanon, women are struggling to better their lives and the lives of their families. These women received support from RUWOMED, a project which focuses on economic empowerment though income-generating activities in the agri-food sector.

Their story was recently told in a moving article published in El Pais, one of the major newspapers of Spain, under the title "The seed for a dignified future".

Integrating those excluded

The numbers are clear: the employment rate of women in rural areas of Lebanon and Palestine is less than 25%. "The political and security situation in the region is obviously affecting women to get involved in the labour market", said Kirsten Sutherland, project manager at Spanish NGO’s "Assembly of Cooperation for Peace".

But in the mind of the promoters of the RUWOMED, something had to be done to help determined and courageous women to be productive and take charge of their own lives.

Thanks to the project, a hundred of women received training and physical support with activities such as raising mushrooms, making honey or growing vegetables.

Not only women were provided with material for improving agri-food products and learnt to work together, but they also made money out of selling their products on local markets.

In terms of family support, this income makes a difference: "Things in my home have changed a lot. I have enough money to cover the cost of public transportation for my daughters to go to the university. My sons are glad and proud of me. I am so happy with this project", said Fathiyya Jabora Aurori, a rural woman from Palestine.

Products sold in Spain

Last November, a group of Lebanese and Palestinian women traveled to Andalucía, Spain. There, they had the opportunity to exchange experiences and technical knowledge with local small producers and cooperatives. Eventually, new cross-border business ventures should be established. "We produce over 100 tons of pickle each year. We are going to try to make a cream with the Spanish cooperatives", said Nawal Khalil Yousef, who lives in the Palestinian village of Deir Ballout.

During their stay in Spain, women from Lebanon and Palestine were proud to see their products sold in fair trade shops. These biological products, including dates, honey, sun-dried tomatoes, couscous and spices were also displayed during agri-food fairs in order to increase visibility with wholesalers.

In traditional societies which often limit the possibility of women to interact in the public sphere, RUWOMED has created new channels through which women can work outside of their homes.

But most of all, the project has helped to give women a sense of dignity - that they are valuable members of society who have the skills and means to contribute to the economic and social well-being of their households and communities.

RUWOMED is funded by the EU for an amount of € 1.7 million. For more information, please visit the project’s website: www.acpp.com/ruwomed

Kirsten Sutherland
Project manager
Asamblea de Cooperación por la Paz
Tel: 0034 954562928 / 0034 679519869
Email: orientemedio@acpp.com

Press review
El Pais
El Diario
Vida Sana
Mujer Emprendedora

TV feature broadcasted on "Andalusian Stories"