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Israa Ashami

There is an assumption that women-led entrepreneurship is a new phenomenon in Palestine. In fact, Nihaya Abdeljaber, Israa's mother, is a living example that women's creativity and ability to sustain a business were possible even in difficult times. "My mother used to mend clothes for a small fee. She worked alone and was not supported by any cooperative or community-based organization," Israa says. Her mother's income supported the family when her husband could not find work due to the political situation in the West Bank.

While Israa's mother never thought of starting a formal business, that was Israa's main goal. Her fashion design and traditional embroidery business was initially set up in a house she shared with her in-laws. Later, Israa was able to use her savings and move with her family to a house of her own, where she continued to work and receive clients.

As a creative young woman, Israa was able to use all the skills she had learned from her mother to create modern, colorful designs that met the needs of her customers. Israa was trained to delegate work. Now  she employs other women in her village to embroider for her, creating employment opportunities for other women in her community. She also handles the operations and finances of her business.

While her mother never pursued further education, Israa felt the need to learn more. She recently joined the Business Women Forum (BWF) as part of the OBADER project, where she learnt entrepreneurial skills - particularly in the area of digital marketing - skills that have taken her work to a new level.

"I am not a pro at using social media to promote my business," she says. "It's only recently that I have learned the importance of using social media and digital marketing to build networks. I am getting support from OBADER-BWF to design my logo and brand, which is a dream come true." Israa realized that she still has a lot to learn in order to turn her passion into a successful business and market her products in "the city," where there are many marketing opportunities.

While the legal and political environment has not changed much for the two generations of women, the fact that there is more support for women entrepreneurs provided by organizations like the Business Women Forum is making a difference.

Israa was elected vice president of the textile union, which was formed a year ago to raise awareness of existing labor laws, especially minimum wage requirements. This was a major achievement for women's advocacy in Palestine. Israa also participated in TEDxRamallah, where she shared her entrepreneurial experiences to inspire other women. In a short time, she was able to make new contacts and strengthen her network and personal skills. This led Israa to make contacts with presenters from TV, who agreed to promote their products by wearing their designs on their shows, which are seen by thousands.