Bank of Palestine, in partnership with the International Finance Corporation, and in collaboration with the Business Women Forum and the world renowned auditing and consulting firm Ernst and Young, celebrated the graduation of the second cohort of women who participated in the Felestineya Mini MBA Program, which was especially designed to advance the administrative and professional skills of Palestinian women entrepreneurs.

The graduation ceremony was held on 11 January 2018, at the main headquarters of Bank of Palestine in Ramallah, joined by a video conference with audience at Level Up restaurant in Gaza City, in the presence of Mr. Hashim Al Shawa, the Chairman of Bank of Palestine Group, Mr. Azzam Al Shawa, the Governor of the Palestine Monetary Authority, Dr. Haifa Al Agha, Minister of Women’s Affairs. Mr. Yousef Habesch, Representative of the International Finance Corporation in Palestine, Mr. Saed Abdullah, Representative of Ernst and Young, Ms. Dua Wadi, the Executive Director of the Palestinian Business Women Forum, Mr. Buraq Nabulsi, Director General of the Palestinian Capital Market Authority, alongside leaders from the private sector, civil society and women’s organizations, in addition to journalists and media persons.

The Felestineya Mini MBA Program aims to advance the work and leadership skills of women entrepreneurs in Palestine by developing their skills in the fields of strategic and financial planning, marketing and human resource management, to name a few. The program also aims to develop leadership among women through the best Palestinian trainers.

A total of 36 women have been selected from Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza to participate in the program that was held over a period of six months. The Felestineya Mini MBA Program contributed to improving the capacities of women to advance their work mechanisms, products and services, by modifying their business models, enhancing their market knowledge and ability to communicate and establish links with specialized managers and employees from Bank of Palestine who would assist them in developing their projects and obtaining all the banking support, services, consultations and products they need.

Mr. Hashim Al Shawa stressed the importance of the Felestineya Mini MBA Program considering it is the first program of its kind that was designed in partnership with the International Finance Corporation especially for women owners of small and medium sized enterprise to support their projects and expand their business. Al Shawa stated that the bank selected the best trainers in Palestine and established partnerships with organizations such as Ernst and Young and the Business Women Forum, who played a major role in the success of the program. 

Al Shawa revealed that the results achieved by the program during the past two years encouraged the International Finance Corporation to promote the program among numerous banks around the world and encourage its implementation. At the same time, Al Shawa pointed out that 2017 witnessed the graduation of a unique cohort that consisted of 36 businesswomen from Jerusalem, Gaza and the West Bank, who were selected from a total of 410 application. The businesses of these women varied from food and agricultural production, to engineering services, commerce, education, handicrafts and the beauty sector, and their projects managed to generate 172 job opportunities.

Ms. Haifa Al Agha, the Minister of Women’s Affairs at the Palestinian Authority, valued the bank’s keenness on promoting the Palestinian economy, pointing out its national spirit and its belief in the role of Palestinian women. Al Agha stated that the economy forms the main pillar for building a Palestinian state, and the participation of both males and females in the economy is an important indicator for measuring the development and advancement of any society. According to Al Agha, economic empowerment is considered the main driver of the development process in all countries that seek to move towards real and sustainable development. Thus, lowering the unemployment rate, providing adequate job opportunities for all, providing protection at the job market, as well as political and social stability are among the basic prerequisites for development. Al Agha pointed out that Palestinian women continue to play a major and important role in promoting culture, defending the nation and overcoming all life challenges and obstacles. Palestinian women also played a role in promoting the internal resilience front, ensuring her willingness to cooperate with all national organizations in order to promote the participation of women in all sectors, particularly the economy.

Mr. Yousef Habesch, Representative of the International Finance Corporation in Palestine, discussed the IFC’s partnership with Bank of Palestine, ensuring that it managed to achieve great success over the years. Habesch stated that the IFC established its partnership with the bank in 2008, based on a joint vision to develop the Palestinian economy, whether through funding large projects such as Al Wataniya Mobile, and developing financial tools for small and medium sized enterprise, including the development of the Felestineya Mini MBA Program for women entrepreneurs. Habesch also stated that the studies which point out the effective role played by women in the economy of the Middle East may increase the Gross Domestic Product in the said region by 11%, while the Felestineya Mini MBA Program aims to build the core foundations to support women entrepreneurs by developing their managerial and commercial skills and expanding their business networks.

Mr. Azzam Al Shawa, the Governor of the Palestine Monetary Authority, praised the continuous development and success achieved by Bank of Palestine by expanding its business locally and internationally, by promoting the principle of good governance and achieving considerable change at the senior level, and by launching distinguished initiatives that express its corporate social through sponsoring programs that contribute to economic and social development, among them programs that target women and youth and assist them in realizing their ambitions.

The Governor also praised the bank’s implementation of the Felestineya Mini MBA Program and its effect on developing the business and leadership skills of Palestinian women entrepreneurs. He stressed the conformity of such initiatives with the policies and strategies of the Palestinian Monetary Authority to empower women economically, especially by creating a favorable environment for empowering women financial wise, and promote financial and banking awareness campaigns and developing specialized programs to build the capacities businesswomen and entrepreneurs. 

The Governor stressed that the Palestine Monetary Authority developed its automated systems to be able to collect and analyze gender-based financial and demographic data, which allowed it to identify the existing gap in the financial awareness levels between men and women, which reached 20%, and discuss this problem in the National Strategy for Financial Inclusion document. The Governor called upon all banks and lending institutions to restructure their future financial policies in a manner that responds to the next stages of financing by preparing funding programs that include products that target women, especially owners of micro, small, and medium sized enterprise. 

Several participants in the Felestineya Mini MBA Program talked about their experiences and the added-value of the program in terms of new expertise that contributed to developing their projects and allowing them to achieve success. The management of Bank of Palestine and partner organizations distributed certificates on participants and honored both program graduates and stakeholders.