Issue No.
166, February 2012 Latest update 9 2014f August 2014, at 4.39 am
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Women in fashion design business.

What Doesn’t Kill Us Makes Us Stronger
By Najah Osaily
Our country is in need of all its potential capabilities: building the new state of Palestine is the duty of every Palestinian, and men and women must work together to make this dream come true. But the uncertain situations, the insecure environment, the lack of sovereignty, and all the hardships that Palestinians live and experience lead to the emergence of two possible scenarios: the first is that they lose hope and faith in themselves, becoming prisoners of despair; the second is that they confront the challenges of their reality head-on and think positively. As Nietzsche once said: “What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.”

Most Palestinians have chosen the second scenario and committed themselves wholeheartedly to investing in education and in entrepreneurship; they feel that this is the way to build and develop their lives, the way to make their dreams a reality, the way to attain the right to a decent and normal life. Palestinians believe that being productive will lead to an improvement of their day-to-day lives; by creating jobs and contributing to raising the standard of living they will be more able to ensure a better life and a more promising future for their families.

This is the spirit in which I was raised; as a Palestinian woman who lives in Palestine, in Hebron City, I’ve learned that in order to create a better future and to contribute to state building, we must first work on ourselves. Good education, clear goals, and high hopes will greatly enrich our lives. Assuming more responsibility and taking on greater challenges will lead to increased productivity. I’ve learned that when you do something, you have to do it with conviction and persistence - being proactive rather than reactive empowers a person.

Many friends who live abroad tell me that a conservative society like that of Hebron would be a barrier for an ambitious woman. What they don’t know is that in a conservative society, a persevering, enthusiastic, hard-working, ambitious woman will discover opportunities even when they seem to be hidden. When a woman accepts a difficult challenge she usually finds more support than she ever imagined, and often in unlikely places! It’s all in her hands.

In a conservative society, you will gain respect and credibility through your behaviour, values, commitments, and achievements, regardless of your gender. The rules of good business apply here: opportunities will not appear as long as you simply sit and wait for them. You have to work hard to seek out opportunities and be wise enough to know which ones are the most appropriate for you.

Many Palestinian women are highly educated and often travel to other countries to study. But the percentage of women joining the workforce is still very low (15.5 percent, according to 2010 Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics [PCBS] figures), most probably due to the limited opportunities in Palestine and the high rate of unemployment among both men and women (23.7 percent, PCBS 2010).

Most people cannot imagine that there could be opportunities available even within the miserable context of military occupation. The secret is that it’s up to us to create our own opportunities. Even in the midst of a crisis, opportunities can be found. As Marsha Sinetar reminds us, “Life’s ups and downs provide windows of opportunity to determine your values and goals. Think of using all obstacles as stepping stones to build the life you want.”

It’s our responsibility to dig deep and look for those opportunities. First we must identify the needs of our country. What capabilities do we have? What are the strengths that we need to maintain, and what are the weaknesses that we need to work on? Let’s put our goals into practice; let’s work towards helping the whole society to function at its best. Women are needed most to contribute to the economy both directly and indirectly, to raise the new generation on values such as commitment, honesty, equality, diversity, and most importantly, to raise them to be real Palestinians who are loyal to their country. A woman’s role does not finish here. Women must be empowered to contribute directly to society and to the economy, to make use of what they have learned.

But, alas, women still have a long way to go. They need to take the lead and change the facts on the ground. Everyone is needed; diversity is complementary. We need teachers, farmers, doctors, lawyers, and, most definitely, entrepreneurs. Let’s not forget the powerful lady who was the first international trader in Islam: Khadijah, Prophet Mohammed’s wife. Now is the time for all of us to work hard so that the labels on our domestic and exported products read: PROUDLY MADE IN PALESTINE.

Our country needs everything and everyone. It’s a potential market for many investors, and our duty as Palestinian businesswomen is to spread awareness in our society about how important the contributions of women can be. If they are motivated to get out and try to join the workforce but find that there are no desirable positions, then let’s create them. Everyone knows that Palestinians are entrepreneurs in spirit. Palestinian women are persistent, creative, and flexible - characteristics developed through the challenges of day-to-day life under occupation. Engendering a positive attitude will enable women to have a profound impact on the surrounding environment, thus contributing significantly to building a good life for all. After all, we have a country that needs our united efforts. So hand in hand, both men and women, let’s make our dreams come true.

Najah Zuhair Osaily lives in Hebron and is the administrative and financial manager at Osaily Trading Contracting Company. She earned a master’s degree in business administration in the United Kingdom and is one of the founders of the Palestinian Businesswomen’s Forum. She can be reached at najah@osaily.com.
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