The Cherie Blair Foundation for Women has been working in partnership with the Western Galilee College (WGC) since 2009 to support women in Northern Israel to access higher education and to strengthen women-owned businesses in the region.
Employment and entrepreneurial opportunities are scarce for women in Western Galilee, forcing many to migrate to the centre of the country in search of work. However, women remain underrepresented in the labour force and studies show that businesses run by women suffer economically, commercially and managerially because female entrepreneurs struggle to access key management tools and knowledge. Such barriers hold women back from achieving personal and economic empowerment, and from contributing to their local communities. In order to address these issues, the Foundation and WGC have collaborated on two projects.
In 2009, we developed a unique three-year higher education programme which provided tutoring, workplace training and business development opportunities for women. The interdisciplinary BA in Economics and Management gave young women the confidence and skills they needed to become successful entrepreneurs.
The first intake of women graduated in October 2012 and they quickly became role models in their communities. Some took jobs in the fields of business, IT or banking, or went on to set up their own enterprises, whilst others pursued further studies. In light of these successes, we supported a second intake of women, through a generous donation from the Cheryl Saban Self-Worth Foundation. These women graduated in the autumn of 2015.
Business Accelerator Training Programme
Building on the successful partnership, in 2014 the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women and WGC – with the support of The Pratt Foundation – launched a slightly different type of programme, focusing on business accelerator training. We are supporting more established Jewish and Arab Israeli women-owned businesses. The programme equips the women entrepreneurs with both the theoretical and practical knowledge and tools to successfully manage and grow a business, through formal training sessions, face-to-face business coaching and personalised support and advice.
The first cohort of women completed the business accelerator training in January 2016 and a new cohort of 23 women entrepreneurs joined the project in March 2016. By targeting women entrepreneurs with growth-oriented businesses and the potential to generate employment opportunities, we not only empowered individual women but we also supported them in contributing to the wider economic development of the Western Galilee region. 94% strengthened their business skills, 60% grew their revenue, and 68% increased their access to markets.
‘The courses in the programme gave me the support and tools I needed to build up my headscarf business from scratch and now I feel that the concept of entrepreneurship has become a part of me.’
– Reut Bublil-Peretz, Western Galilee College student
Nasreen Kadado, a third year student in the higher education programme, explains why taking part in our programme has been a special experience for her:
As women we need each other’s support and a safe place to step, hand in hand, towards gaining a better future. All the activities are carried out with the full cooperation of each of the 20 students in the programme, all of whom come from diverse backgrounds, with a different life story. Despite the differences between us, we have in common the will to prove that women can go ahead and be very successful. The programme has given me tremendous courage and has allowed me to begin studying and fulfilling a dream. It has strengthened my self-confidence, shown me a positive view of the world, and I have come to the conclusion that nothing can stand in the way of the determination to succeed. I thank Mrs. Cherie Blair for giving all of us the opportunity to strive towards a more rewarding life.
The Pratt Foundation was established in 1978 by Richard and Jeanne Pratt with the shared vision of supporting charitable enterprises and adding value to philanthropy. The Foundation’s mission statement is: “To enrich the lives of our communities”. This statement highlights the diversity and pluralism of the communities which The Pratt Foundation serves in Australia, Israel, Asia, and Europe, and its commitment to add value to them. As Heloise Waislitz, the Chair of The Pratt Foundation says, “Involvement in philanthropy brings great responsibilities. But it is also a great privilege”.
The Cheryl Saban Self-Worth Foundation was formed in 2009 and is a private charitable organisation. The primary mission of the Foundation is to provide grants to organisations that work towards the empowerment and advancement of women.
Western Galilee College offers a platform for positive change by bringing higher education to a population removed geographically and psychologically from the centre of the country and inspires its students to grow strong as individuals and as a community.