Originally from Kufor Zabad, a village outside of Tulkarem, Palestine, Reema has always been a working professional. Throughout her academic career and after graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in History from Al Quds Open University in 2012, she held various office jobs. This was not something that she enjoyed or saw herself doing as a career.
Reema was constantly thinking of different ways to become independent and be her own boss. After attending a few courses at a local women’s community center, she fell in love with the idea of making soap. Many of the supplies necessary for production such as herbs, olive oil and honey were bountiful in her village. In 2013, after receiving a small grant from the Ma’an Development Center, Reema finally took the next step and started producing soap. She is still in the early phases of her business, selling small amounts at the local market, and plans to register with the Tulkarem Chamber of Commerce in the near future.
Reema heard about the WISE II program at Tomorrow’s Youth Organization from the Chamber of Commerce last year but was a little apprehensive at first. In the past, Reema has taken several business related seminars but felt they were not comprehensive in nature. After learning that the program expanded over a year and focused on various components of a successful business, she decided to give it a chance.
When she first started her business, Reema’s biggest challenge was time-management. Through business developments courses offered by the WISE II program, she has broken through that barrier and so much more. She was able to network with individuals, institutions and attend exhibitions that she would have otherwise not known about. Reema has learned various tricks of the trade from professionals in the soap industry and now incorporates them into her own in order to improve her products.
Gender norms placed on Reema by society is a persistent barrier she must confront as a businesswoman in Palestine. Family members constantly pressure her whenever she leaves her village for business-related purposes. For many in her community, the labor market is perceived as being an all boys’ club. This gender norm is something that she is continuously trying to change within her family and the community.
Reema never lacked motivation but rather the proper resources to make her dream into a reality. Not only does Reema have more self-confidence in the success of her business but in herself as well. She plans to nominate herself for the local municipality and one day hopes to be the mayor of her village.