Hanan Ahmed is a 39-year-old Palestine refugee who lives with her family of six in Gaza City. She has been a client of the UNRWA Microfinance Programme in Gaza for more than three years. In 2014, she got her first loan to start her own business, a dress shop, and has received five loans to date.
“Life in Gaza is hard and expensive. My husband – whose income is limited – and I work hard to meet the needs of our family and provide a better life for our four daughters,” Hanan said.
Thanks to the loans, Hanan managed to scale up her business, renting a bigger place and buying new supplies. Hanan believes that doing so enabled her to improve the livelihood of her family, have better control over her working hours and build up her independence.
“I knew about the UNRWA Microfinance Programme from a friend who received a loan from it and started his own business,” she added. “For seven years, I used to work in a clothing shop. After gaining enough experience, I used my savings and the loan I got from the Microfinance Programme to start my own dress shop. It felt like a dream come true to finally run my own business.”
Against the backdrop of ongoing blockade and high unemployment rates, what makes Hanan’s story even more remarkable is that she is not only a business owner, but also an employer: her business provides several jobs for young people in Gaza. “I believe that this programme doesn’t only empower its clients – it helps other people as well. I now have three people who work with me and contribute to enhancing the living conditions of their families, who are affected by the many challenges of life in Gaza,” Hanan commented.
Through its Field Microfinance Programme, UNRWA in Gaza helps address the needs of the entrepreneurial and unbanked sector of the community, including low-income Palestine refugees. In the first quarter of 2017, between January and March, the Programme disbursed 1,344 loans worth more than US$ 1.9 million. It also provided fresh graduates, university students and professionals with a variety of technical training opportunities, including sessions on job hunting, project management and gender awareness. During the same quarter, the Microfinance Programme conducted at a total of 31 courses for 598 participants. Almost 41 per cent of the participants were women, and 54 per cent were youth less than 30 years of age. UNRWA launched the Microfinance Programme in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) in the early 1990s and expanded operations to Syria and Jordan in 2003. Since 1991, the Programme in Gaza has issued almost 120,000 loans worth more than US$ 154 million.