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Gaza Entrepreneur Challenge: Unleashing Youth Creativity and Innovative Ideas for a Brighter Future
For the second year in a row, and in cooperation with the Japan Gaza Innovation Challenge (JGIC) initiative, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) hosted the 2017 Gaza Entrepreneur Challenge from 12 to 14 August 2017. The event included a three-day workshop and business competition where the winning team was announced, followed by a closing ceremony on 14 August held in the UNRWA Gaza Training Centre in Gaza City.
During the event, the participating teams were involved in workshops and lectures on how entrepreneurial ideas could contribute to a brighter future for Gaza. They provided an opportunity for young entrepreneurs to learn essential skills and knowledge for running a successful business, present their entrepreneurial ideas, and connect with Japanese investors and social entrepreneurs.
The event was also supported by local entrepreneurial incubators in Gaza, including the UNRWA social enterprise spin-off GGateway. Eighty applications of various ideas and initiatives were presented to the panel of JGIC initiative.
This year’s winners were the creators of ECHOHOME, which aims to produce alternative and renewable energy by converting organic matter and manure into flammable methane through anaerobic fermentation, as well as organic fertilizer that nourishes soil to naturally improve crop quality without damaging human health. The team will be rewarded a financial prize of US$ 5,000, along with technical support to start their business and a training trip to Japan.
The main focus of the 2017 Gaza Entrepreneur Challenge was on entrepreneurship projects that contribute to enhancing living conditions in Gaza. The ideas that were presented spanned various fields, including health care, nutrition, water management, recycling, agriculture, education and manufacturing.
“All ideas presented in front of the judges’ panel reflect the passion and determination of those young people to help their community overcome their problems through new creative ideas,” commented Satoko Kono, one of the JGIC judges. “The Japan Gaza Innovation Challenge will keep supporting those ideas that help for a better future,” she added.
Through different interventions, UNRWA encourages and supports young entrepreneurs in Gaza as a means to overcome the hardships created by the dire socioeconomic context of the small coastal enclave. The blockade on Gaza, which entered its eleventh year in June 2017, and repeated cycles of armed conflict have crippled the enclave’s economy and pushed a large part of the population into unemployment and poverty.
UNRWA is confronted with an increased demand for services resulting from a growth in the number of registered Palestine refugees, the extent of their vulnerability and their deepening poverty. UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions and financial support has been outpaced by the growth in needs. As a result, the UNRWA programme budget, which supports the delivery of core essential services, operates with a large shortfall. UNRWA encourages all Member States to work collectively to exert all possible efforts to fully fund the Agency’s programme budget. UNRWA emergency programmes and key projects, also operating with large shortfalls, are funded through separate funding portals. UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly in 1949 and mandated to provide assistance and protection to some 5.4 million Palestine refugees registered with UNRWA across its five fields of operation. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank, including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip achieve their full human development potential, pending a just and lasting solution to their plight. UNRWA services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, protection and microfinance.
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