We're celebrating International Women's Day with the story of an innovative group of women in the West Bank.
They're inspiring change in their communities through a cooperative that not only provides nutritious food but quality early childhood education for the children in their communities.
The women live in a small town near Hebron, an area with high rates of poverty and little infrastructure with which the community can improve livelihoods. Water is scarce, making it difficult to farm, and access to food is unreliable, which is damaging to the development of young children.
It's difficult to move around the West Bank and in some remote areas transportation can be expensive and unreliable, so people can have trouble finding and keeping jobs to support their families. Unwilling to accept these circumstances, the women joined forces to address the needs of their community. They created an association, a cooperative for women, with the goal of providing better opportunities for the community and a better future for their children.
One of the women who played an active role in forming the association is Abeer, a university graduate whose first job was at a local yoghurt factory, where she learnt the ins and outs of food processing. She went on to become a teacher, and a mother, before joining with the other women to create the association.
Abeer and her colleagues used their skills to start a food processing factory, producing healthy food that they could sell in local school canteens. At the time, the canteens mostly sold unhealthy food, including chips, lollies and other highly-processed foods. Abeer and her team went to the Ministry of Education and Health and brought them on board with their plan.
While they felt strongly about being an independent organisation, they needed some support to help pay the costs of renting out the school canteens, so they approached World Vision about giving them a hand up. World Vision agreed to pay their rent until they made enough profit to do so themselves. Their business was so successful that they were able to do so after just one year.