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When three women from different areas, with different personalities but same passion meet, some extraordinary ideas come up; ideas of independence, freedom and leadership. Maysoon Jarad, Rasmya Murad and Areej Redwan, three young women in their twenties brought together by their love for fashion design. Maysoon and Rasmya studied fashion design at university, while Areej studied business administration and complemented it with fashion design. 

The three women met in a fashion design training course in Gaza City organized as part of the Youth Economic Empowerment project funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and implemented by UNDP in partnership with the Job Creation Programme - Presidency Bureau. The advanced training targeted 21 women and provided opportunities for sustainable business to those who excel in the programme. 

“I knew about the training and the project online. I applied because I believed it was going to add more experience and will expose me to the market. I was already working in a sewing workshop but I always wanted to be a business owner and be financially independent. Most business owners pay less wage and get  the credit for our design. This makes me upset,” Rasmya said. 

“We received the training back in March 2020. Ever since, the three of us knew we will make a great team. We complement each other in business, design and sewing. I am specialized more in children clothes while my colleagues also do evening dresses and casual wear. We also do embroidery. We try to cater to people’s different needs at our store,” Areej highlighted.

Fashion Sabaya Store was opened in October 2020, at a time when COVID-19 was spreading, and movement restrictions were imposed in Gaza. Many businesses have not been able to survive this global crisis. “Opening a new business in the middle of this pandemic was a challenge. We were already taking a huge risk and the restrictions made it even worse. The weekend and night curfews reduced our working hours. The already deteriorating economic situation in Gaza impacted people’s ability to buy. We were selling products to a financially exhausted population. This led us to reduce the profit margin and focus on saleable pieces in order to sustain our business during the crisis,” Maysoon explained.

The store has forged steadily ahead, securing the three women an income to live on, and leading as a new business in the area. “The requests keep coming in as the restrictions are easing and more weddings and special occasions are taking place. We are very proud to be able to secure an income of atleast US$ 200 a month, sustain our business, and reach where we are now”. 

During the pandemic, the three women were looking for opportunities to work and contribute to the heath sector in Gaza. They contacted the Ministry of Health and were granted approval to produce the white lab coat for the doctors who are also benefiting from the Cash for Work programme. They provided 100 coats and kept their business afloat during the crisis. The team also won the first prize in the fashion design exhibition organized in February 2021. 

“Some people may think that businesses managed by women are doomed to fail. We heard many presuppositions, but we persevered because our business is well-planned and our objects are clear. We do not mix our personal relationships with work related issues. We ensure we are all aware of the details and the actions required. During the COVID-19 crisis, we insisted to continue together, and we will always do,” Maysoon, Rasmya and Areej concluded. 

The support provided by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation through a US$ 5.1 million fund enabled 2,253 young men and women to receive training or short-term job opportunities across the Gaza Strip, in addition to almost 140 projects that were incubated, including Fashion Sabaya. 

According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, the unemployment rate for males in the State of Palestine reached 20% compared to 37% for females in the fourth quarter of 2020. In Gaza, the unemployment rate among young women (15-29) reached 92%, compared to 63.2% unemployment among men in the same age group. There is also a gap in the average daily wages between women and men (the average daily wage for women was US$29.6 compared to US$30.8 for men).

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