A World Bank 2013 report showed that only one of four women in the MENA region are employed or looking for work, which was half the global rate. For young women rates of unemployment were as high as 40 percent. They estimated that if current MENA employment rates stayed the same, there would be 145 million unemployed women.
After my mentoring experience in the USA with TechWomen, Everything in my life changed and turned into women empowerment and mentoring, we suffer from a huge lake in understanding the concept of mentoring in "Arabic", we need more material that explains the idea of mentoring, mentors/mentees rules and stories about successful mentoring relationships.
Since I came back I moved from being a mentee to become a mentor, I'm a member of the Mentorship Committee with Arab Women in Computing, and recently, I joined Gaza Sky Geeks team as a Mentorship & Women Inclusivity Program Fellow.
Gaza Sky Geeks is the first and only accelerator in Gaza Strip; it was founded in 2011 with support from Google and is implemented by Mercy Corps, Read more about Gaza Sky Geeks
GSG is committed to creating an inclusive startup movement in Gaza, because this movement is just beginning, the way they shape it now will influence the future of this sector in Gaza.
They ran “Intalqi” last year and will launch a new round this month, to grow women’s involvement in the startup sector, increase their self-confidence and prepare them to be involved in the community as "Tech Leaders", The program had enormous success, with women’s participation increasing from 27% to 49% in just one year. Their ultimate goal is to ensure that women receive investment for their startups at equal rates as men.
Iliana Montauk, the director of Gaza Sky Geeks, describes in this blog post how the accelerator grew women’s leadership in the nascent tech sector in Gaza.
Gaza Sky Geeks Lunched last month "Gaza Challenge" startup bootcamp in Gaza Strip, 35 teams participated in the 5 day startup bootcamp, the top teams is now enrolled in a 6week preacceleration program at Gaza Sky Geeks, with 20000$ investment by June for the most qualified teams.
I participated in this event as a local mentor helping entrepreneurs learn to validate their startup ideas and practice customer development, International mentors were brought in by the organizers at Gaza Sky Geeks, To read more about their experience mentoring startups in Gaza read Angie Chang post on Women2.0.
During the Bootcamp we met with some women to talk about gender in startups, challenges and best ways of getting investment for women. One of the mentors from Jordan, Lauren Peate, mentioned that her current work focuses on barriers faced by female startup founders in the Middle East. From her experience, she believes that women groups and meetings are really important, where women can share their challenges and thoughts and most importantly, are able to support and help each other. Meeting frequently will also help them to know they are not alone in starting a new venture.
“A small group of thoughtful people can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead
Being in the USA and meeting women from different places shows me that women in America face the same problems we face in the MENA region! The challenges facing women entrepreneurs are the same everywhere traditional societal expectations for women, unconscious bias, etc. Also Women in Gaza today feel confident in (STEM fields) Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, more than in the United States.
I learned that we need to think of our challenges as opportunities and learn how to guide them. Figuring out how to succeed as an entrepreneur in a very difficult place like Gaza will make it easier to succeed everywhere else. If we share our collective stories of challenges, failures and successes we can encourage and help each other move forward toward our shared vision of a thriving Gaza startup ecosystem full of startups building value, growing teams, and creating economic prosperity for Gaza.
Finally, I believe that it's us who will make the difference we want to see in our communities.