Monday 30th October 2017
While its Felestineya Women’s Market program has only been in existence since 2015, GBA member Bank of Palestine (BOP) has been supporting women in business in the country since long before that. One of its more innovative offerings, the Felestineya Mini-MBA program offers women the opportunity to grow their business skills, confidence and networks, with graduates seeing outstanding business results.
Women’s economic empowerment and gender inclusion in the labor market are strategic priorities for BOP, and the bank is continuously searching for new avenues that will help support these goals. The Felestineya Mini-MBA Program, offered in cooperation with IFC, consists of 14 daylong sessions that aim to catalyze the growth of established women-owned and -led small- to medium-sized businesses by delivering training on several critical topics, including business and financial management, human resources management, and women’s leadership. The program also connects the women to local Palestinian business experts and BOP relationship managers who provide ongoing guidance so they can grow and manage their businesses. Throughout the program, participants position themselves for growth by refining their business models and increasing their market knowledge.
Nagham Al-Halawani had dreamed of owning her own bakery her entire life, but always doubted her ability to run a sustainable business. Whenever she brought the matter up to family, they, too, discouraged her from pursuing her goal. She let the dream go for many years — but her ambitions still were unchanged. Finally, while continuing to work full time and and maintaining the responsibilities of being married with four children, Nagham began completing small orders from her home kitchen.
She was looking for support to expand her business when she heard about the pilot of the Felestineya Mini-MBA Program. She enrolled in the program and worked hard to implement everything she learned, all the while doubting if she should take the leap and open her own store. A few days after Nagham’s last session of the program, life threw her another challenge: She was diagnosed with cancer. This was a turning point for her; she didn’t want to wait any longer to open the shop of her dreams.
Nagham’s shop, Mama’s Delights, opened in January 2017.
Felestineya is a robust program at BOP that focuses on empowering and supporting women to play a key role in society from both a social and economic perspective. Felestineya began on an internal level at the bank, with management revising policies and guidelines to enhance gender inclusiveness. BOP devised a plan to achieve a more gender-balanced workplace, with emphasis on women filling senior and decision-making positions. Gender sensitivity training is now given to all new employees as part of the orientation program.
BOP’s external Women’s Market proposition was designed to target women of all backgrounds, with services and products to meet their needs whether they are women who stay at home, women who are employed by others or women who own their own businesses. Banking products intended specifically to finance women – such as the Felestineya Collateral Free Loan, Felestineya Personal Gold Loan and Felestineya Business Gold Loan – comprise the program’s financial offerings.
Non-financial advisory services are also provided as part of the program to better equip women to manage their expenses on a personal and business level. This is accomplished through trainings, workshops and programs such as the Mini-MBA Program, the Banking Literacy Program, Entrepreneur of the Year Award Program and Business Toolkit. In 2016, BOP signed an agreement with the Federation of the Chambers of Commerce to encourage and assist female business owners to move from the informal market to the formal market.
For more information on BOP’s Felestineya Program, visit the Felestineya website.
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