Of the 2.5 million people in the West Bank, nearly a third are unemployed women. Women face particularly acute challenges in the entering the workforce due to a confluence of cultural norms, political instability, a stagnated economy and cultural and religious restrictions upon their movement. The unstable internet access within the West Bank and the lack of a 3G network mean that innovators like Souktel must find solutions to the area’s problems using only SMS and IVR-based deployments.
Despite this, in recent years, a growing number of female entrepreneurs are flourishing with the help of an innovative peer-networking service developed by Souktel and administered by Tomorrow’s Youth Organisation. Access to business coaching and a mobile-based peer support network is allowing ambitious women to help each other to grow their own business. Their success is changing the opinions of their communities and delivering real change to the West Bank.
Here, we travelled to Ramallah, commercial hub of the West Bank, and Nablus to speak to service managers from both Souktel and Tomorrow’s Youth Organisation, who run the programme and to listen to Sahar Dwaikat, who enrolled in it and has not only set up her own graphic design business but is actively helping fellow service users with logos and branding for their own businesses, demonstrating the virtuous circle of improvement afforded by these innovative mobile-based development platforms.