Women creating peace: A joint social-economic venture of Israeli and Palestinian entrepreneurs
Julia Chaitin, Ph.D.
Israeli project co-director
The Negev Institute for Strategies of Peace and Development
Joint Ventures for Peace brings together Palestinian and Israeli women entrepreneurs to work as equal partners and create a unique discourse on peace. Co-organized and run by The Negev Institute for Strategies of Peace and Development – NISPED (www.nisped.org.il) inIsrael and the Shorouq Society for Women (www.shorouqsociety.org) inPalestine, the first stage of this project was made possible through the generous support of the Canadian government.
This project takes a holistic approach to peace and social-economic development by coupling inter-group dialogue, knowledge and group cohesiveness with the advance of small and medium business development and artistic initiatives. Our nearly 40 participants come from diverse backgrounds and communities. The Palestinian women, Muslims and Christians, have expertise in embroidery, ceramics, straw weaving, art, beauty and hairdressing, Christmas gifts, social work, and soap making. The Jewish-Israeli women are professionals in ceramics, clothes design, art, creative writing, silver and goldsmith jewellery, graphic art, straw weaving, and the creation of products from recycled paper.
In our monthly meetings, the women deepen their understandings of one another by learning about each woman’s life experiences, as impacted by the social-economic context, as well as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In addition, we support the women in business development, focusing on such topics as pricing, product creation, and the creation of sustainable equal business partnerships. We also have ongoing one-on-one meetings in bothIsraelandPalestine, in which pairs and small groups of the women meet and work together to develop the group’s joint vision, partnership agreements and their products, which are mainly targeted for international markets. Some of these goods include: an embroidered bag for a yoga mat; olive oil soap in ceramic dishes; baskets weaved from straw from the date tree; journals and bookmarks made from recycled paper and decorated with embroidery; glass bead necklaces and more.
The latest highlight of Joint Ventures for Peace was a sale held at the Canadian ambassador’s residence in Herzliya on December 4th. This event, which was attended by hundreds of diplomats, businesswomen, artisans and the public at large, showcased the joint products, reaching a wide audience of Israelis and internationals.
As we end this phase of the project, we are building on the lessons learned during the first 7 months in order to develop our initiative into a process that will have a much wider and deeper impact. Therefore, we are aiming to multiply the number of women entrepreneur-peacemakers, who are committed to making a difference “on the ground.” Our next goals are to recruit an additional cohort of Palestinian and Israeli women entrepreneurs, and to expand training and needed support to help the women scale up, further develop their designs and production, and help provide marketing outlets for their quality products. We will also work on deepening the existing dialogue among the women and on disseminating their visions of peace to larger and additional audiences – in Israel/Palestine and abroad.
Our next concrete steps include: promoting access to microfinance; developing a website that will provide the women with a platform to display and market their products and to share the women’s experiences and visions of peace; expansion of marketing channels in North America and Europe; and the creation of a joint travelling art exhibit entitled: Cooking for Peace Guided, in which each woman participant will create a sculpture designed around a cooking pot.
Joint Ventures for Peace has already touched the lives of the participants and their families and close friends, as well as the hundreds of people who attended the event and sale at the Canadian ambassador’s home. These Israeli and Palestinian women refuse to give in to the violence, fear and hatred characteristic of our region. They are true peacemakers who stand committed to peace and social justice and reach out to all who wish to join them in this empowering and necessary journey.