The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development is partnering with the Bank of Palestine to empower Palestinian women entrepreneurs under the Women in Business program, to help grow their businesses at a time when the Covid-19 pandemic is severely impacting the economy.
The program will facilitate access to finance for women-led small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and increase their participation in the local market. It will also provide business advice to help them grow their companies. The program in the West Bank and Gaza is partially funded by the Netherlands through the EBRD Multi donor Trust Fund.
As the first joint initiative under the program, the EBRD is providing a US$ 15 million financing package to support local SMEs, including US$ 2 million dedicated to financing women entrepreneurs.
Small businesses account for more than 95 percent of private-sector enterprises in the West Bank and Gaza, but only a quarter of those businesses are owned by women.
EBRD President Odile Renaud-Basso said at a virtual launch event today: “Supporting women’s role in the economy is crucial for sustainable and inclusive development. The EBRD is very pleased to roll out its flagship to partner with Bank of Palestine through the Women in Business Programme to create conditions that allow women to fulfill their potential.”
Hashim Shawa, Chairman of Bank of Palestine Group, said: “Women constitute 50 percent of the population in Palestine, yet they are underrepresented in the labor force and economic cycle. As a bank we are committed to turning around this reality through Women in Business programs with the EBRD and the Netherlands, naturally building upon our flagship women’s financial inclusion programs at the bank.”
The program will also help address the low 21 percent labor participation rate of women in the West Bank and Gaza. The EBRD aims to bridge this gender gap and help address the low representation of women entrepreneurs with tailored capacity-building for the Bank of Palestine.
In addition to financing, program beneficiaries will also receive training, mentoring, and advice to successfully manage and expand their businesses. The Women in Business program is currently active in 24 economies, with total EBRD financing of €526.6 million.
The Women in the Business project with the Bank of Palestine will complement the bank’s already considerable efforts with regard to gender-responsive banking under its longstanding Felestineya initiative.
Since the start of its operations in the West Bank and Gaza in 2017, the EBRD has signed 13 projects for a total amount of US$ 51 million.