On Wednesday, 19/2/2020, Bank of Palestine celebrated the Fourth Graduation Ceremony of the Felestineya Mini MBA program, which forms part of its activities and strategy to promote the role of women and allow them to participate in economic and social life. Thirty-five Palestinian women, including entrepreneurs and businesswomen, graduated out of 80 women who participated in the fourth graduation ceremony. 

The ceremony was held at Bank of Palestine headquarters in Ramallah and through videoconferencing with participants and guests from Gaza City, in the presence of Mr. Hashim Shawa, the Chairman of Bank of Palestine Group, Mr. Rushdi Ghalayini, the General Director of Bank of Palestine, Mr. Azzam Al Shawa, the Governor of the Palestinian Monetary Authority, Dr. Layla Ghannam, the Governor of Ramallah and Al Bireh, Mr. Saed Abdallah, the implementing partner on behalf of Ernst and Young (program partner), Ms. Nadia Harb, the Director of the Rural Women’s Development Society, and Mr. Rahhal Rahhal, Representative from OXFAM, including the participation of several officials from Bank of Palestine, women entrepreneurs and journalists.  

Mr. Hashim Shawa greeted the guests and expressed his enthusiasm about this great achievement in celebrating the fourth graduation ceremony of the Felestineya Mini MBA program. According to Shawa, “the program was developed in 2015, when the first graduation ceremony was held, and the number of women beneficiaries from the 800 workshops part of the Felestineya program exceeded 12,000.” Al Shawa praised the bank’s partnership with civil society organizations, institutions and popular events that worked in cooperation with the bank to implement consulting and training courses and meetings and reach a large number of women. These partners, which include over 120 local and international organizations, played a major role in contributing to the success of this program.

Mr. Rushdi Ghalayini stated that the Felestineya program was designed as part of the bank’s internal and external strategy to achieve financial inclusion on the one hand, and provide equal employment opportunities for females, on the other. According the Ghalayin, “the Felestineya program has become a sustainable endeavor that had a positive impact in empowering women and developing their capacities in managing small projects, whether by establishing new ones or developing existing ones, and assisting them to access economic life and participate in the business arenas.”

Ghalayini praised the partnership established by the bank during the implementation of the Felestineya program, pointing out that “the success on a local level would not have been possible without the unique partnerships that the bank established with entities that believed in this strategy, including the International Finance Corporation, Ernst and Young and the Business Women Forum, in cooperation with the Rural Women’s Development Society, OXFAM and the Swedish International Development Agency.”

Ghalayini stated that over 130 women from across Palestinian cities graduated from the Felestineya program. “These women received advanced training in project management using the Lean Canvas model, leadership skills, business development and marketing, pricing, human resource management, financial management, taxes and registration,” stated Ghalayini. The program also allowed women to establish networks by working with bank employees who responded to their banking needs and provided them with non-financial consultations to assist them in developing their businesses.

To that point, Dr. Layla Ghannam expressed her enthusiasm about participating in the fourth graduation ceremony, stating that any activities and events that support Palestinian women are extremely important. Ghannam also praised the role played by the bank in serving the Palestinian community through its corporate social responsibility program.

Ms. Nadya Harb praised the efforts made by Bank of Palestine through the Felestineya program, which aims to empower women and develop their managerial and leadership capacities. “The bank constantly strives to include women in economic and social life,” stated Harb, and “we need to work harder to restore the rights of Palestinian women and contribute to the developmental process in Palestine,” she added.

Mr. Muhammeh Sawafta, the Director of the Economic Justice program at Oxfam, which aims to improve the market system and governance in the agricultural sector, and support and empower women economically and socially, is the core of Oxfam’s work policy and strategy in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. According to Sawafta, “investing in this training program is a translation of these policies on the ground.” Through the training program, Oxfam strives to provide women the opportunity to access training resources and improve their theoretical and practical skills and experiences in the world of money and business, which will in turn reflect on the quality of their private and public businesses and their professional performance; a major step towards the achievement of real economic and social empowerment. 

Sawafta stated that women have an excellent opportunity to benefit from the practical experiences of other women who participated in the training, “which also reflects Oxfam’s strategies for women economic empowerment and ensures collective and inclusive work to achieve the desired empowerment goals,” added Sawafta. According to Sawafta, “Oxfam will continue to walk this path, stemming from its belief in empowering Palestinian women by inventing solutions for the economic problems and challenges they are confronted with, in order to achieve gender equality, create a conducive environment, and increase existing opportunities for the integration and participation of women in decision making processes.”

His Excellency Mr. Azzam Al Shawa praised Bank of Palestine and its initiatives in sponsoring programs that aim to contribute to economic and social development, by targeting women and youth and assisting them in achieving their ambitions. These initiatives, according to Shawa, “are in harmony with the directions and strategies of the Palestinian Monetary Authority to contribute to empowering women at the banking level, achieve financial inclusion and the qualitative development in the Palestinian banking sector.”

His Excellency stressed that the percentage of females who own bank accounts reached 30% by 2019. He called upon all banks and lending institutions to focus their future financing policies in responding to the needs of the upcoming stage, by creating funding programs that include banking products, which target women, especially owners of micro, small and medium sized projects. “This will increase the GDP and contribute to the development of the national economy,” according to Shawa.

It is important to mention that the implementation of the Felestineya program was part of the project for “Developing Equitable Agricultural Production and Market Systems for Resilient Economic Development in the Occupied Palestinian Territories,” which is implemented by the Rural Women’s Development Society through OXFAM, with funding from the Swedish International Development Agency.  

The speeches were followed by the honorable mention of project donors and partners, especially the Palestinian Monetary Authority, the Rural Women’s Development Society, the International Finance Corporation, Ernst and Young, the Business Women Forum, OXFAM and the Swedish International Development Agency, for their efforts in contributing to the success of the Felestineya program, and certificates were distributed to the graduates.