Socially Responsible Women-Run School Canteens

The Women-Run School Canteens programme, funded by the Government of Norway, is a flagship programme implemented by UN Women in the occupied Palestinian territory, having contributed both to enhancing livelihood and economic opportunities for women in marginalized communities in the West Bank and to improving the nutritional status of Palestinian children in targeted schools.

The programme, which has been operating since 2009, gives women in rural areas proper mechanisms and support for the establishment of small and sustainable businesses through their community-based organizations (CBOs). Palestinian governmental school canteens are run as a stand-alone business, but the Ministry of Education has been concerned about the poor nutritional quality of the food being sold at these canteens and the impact on students’ health and academic achievement. Through this programme, UN Women is partnering with the Ministry of Education to capitalize on the business opportunity afforded by the school canteens for women’s community-based organizations, while at the same time addressing the health and nutrition needs of school children, by ensuring that women-run school canteens offer healthy food and snacks. UN Women’s approach through this programme is to develop a business model that will allow for the scaling up at the national level, to have most, if not all, school canteens being women-run.  To achieve this goal, UN Women is investing in both school-level activities related to child-friendly infrastructure and awareness raising, as well as intensive training and coaching of women from the women centres in rural and marginalized areas across the West Bank, related to production skills, business enterprise skills and quality control.

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Spring Forward for Women Programme

The Palestinian component of the four-year regional “Spring Forward” programme, funded by the European Union and UN Women, supports marginalised women to improve their access to economic opportunities, through employment, including self-employment and micro/small enterprise start-ups. Training is provided in key sectors, including agro-biodiversity, culture and creative industries, focusing on product development using raw Palestinian materials, product finishing and quality control, as well as product marketing through the promotion and development of marketing channels. This work is supplemented with hands-on vocational and business development services, in addition to specialized grants.

Capacity development of ministries and non-governmental organizations to support women´s economic empowerment and alleviate poverty at the national and local levels are among the main issues addressed by the programme. In that respect, the programme provides support to the review and activation of laws to encourage the cultural and creative industries and their development from a gender perspective. Simultaneously, linkages are established between women entrepreneurs, non-governmental organizations, governmental service providers, business associations, trade organizations and chambers of commerce.

Livelihood Protection and Sustainable Empowerment of Vulnerable Rural and Refugee Communities in the Jordan Valley

The particular context of the Jordan Valley - the majority of which is classified as Area C, and 400 km2 of which is declared a closed military zone – has isolated it from other Palestinian areas and increased its economic instability and stagnation. Reduced movement and access have exacerbated poverty and unemployment, while isolation has disrupted traditional livelihoods and socio-economic life.  This is compounded by the fact that the Palestinian Government has limited access to this area and therefore, limited opportunity to provide long-term sustainable development programmes.

Building on its experience and expertise in women’s empowerment in marginalized and excluded areas, UN Women has worked together with FAO, UNESCO and UNRWA under a joint programme funded through the UN Human Security Trust Fund, to improve the life and dignity of Palestinian women, men, girls and boys in the Jordan Valley. Within a comprehensive package of interventions based on the technical expertise of each of the participating agencies, UN Women specifically focused on empowering women and girls, facilitating the delivery of crucial services and enhancing their economic security.   Through the programme, UN Women fostered a successful partnership with UNESCO in the construction of women centres using traditional mud-brick technology and earthen techniques. This component has promoted the resurrection of traditional architecture and construction skills, while fabricating affordable centres, which can be quickly and affordably rebuilt in case of need, because the raw materials are readily available in the immediate environment. Women were involved at the very beginning of the construction process, both in terms of employment opportunities from the construction work and the design and purpose of the women centres.  Simultaneously, the project facilitated access of the women’s centres to local and tourist markets. The establishment of kiosks on one of the main highways in the Jordan Valley served to enhance marketing opportunities, as well as generate income for the members of women centres who sell homemade food products and handicrafts in these kiosks. A complimentary activity implemented in partnership with FAO, established a greenhouse for growing thyme, which is subsequently processed and sold in these kiosks. In addition, a traditional women-run “homemade” style restaurant was constructed along this route to enhance women’s capacities in service provision to both local and foreign customers, as well as generate income for both the employees and the women’s centres.

Building and Rehabilitation of 8 women’s centres in the Gaza Strip and West Bank

In 2010, UN women initiated a project for the “Establishment, Rehabilitation and Activation of Eight Women Centres in the Gaza Strip and West Bank”, with the goal of improving Palestinian women’s social and economic situation through making safe, accessible and empowering women-only spaces available to them. Building on the experience of the SABAYA approach, the project supported the building of four women’s community based centres and rehabilitation of four others. By targeting remote areas, the project offered to women a wide range of services that were previously hard to reach such as: legal aid, psycho-social help, educational services and vocational training, among others.  The project has played a fundamental role in counteracting the weakening of informal social support networks, which has occurred due to geographical fragmentation. One of the greatest strengths of the project was in the successful mobilization of women in the targeted communities, enabling them to take full ownership of the centres, to continuously assess the needs and priorities of women within their communities and to establish strong cooperative networks with local councils and decision-making bodies.