In many places in the world, women and girls are more at risk of poverty and hunger than men. In developing countries they represent the majority of the unemployed, and as many as 75% of them work illegally. Many countries continue to impose legal restrictions on their employment, and almost everywhere harmful stereotypes affect the size of their salaries and the quality of their work. Poland supports professional activation of women in such places as Palestine, Kenya and Belarus, Ukraine in the belief that their independence means a better future for themselves, their families and whole societies.
Businesswomen in Palestine
Unemployment remains a serious problem in Palestine, and it specifically affects women. Strengthening entrepreneurship is the goal of many development projects implemented by Polish organisations and the Representative Office of Poland in Ramallah. As part of cooperation of the Polish Representative Office with Radio Nisaa (Radio Woman) – the first women’s radio station in Arabic in Palestine, twenty-one programmes have been broadcast dealing with small businesses run by women and 2,000 advertisements of the products that they make were aired. Such a promotion of positive examples was intended to further the changing the perception of a woman’s role in the society from a person who is totally dependent on husband/family to a person who is professionally active, even a businesswoman.
The beneficiaries of Polish Aid programme include women from different social strata, with different educational backgrounds and needs, such as representatives of one of the most marginalised groups in the society – Bedouin women from the Jahalin tribe. The project started traditional handicraft workshops in two Bedouin villages, where women are trained to make jewellery (Anata, the community of Noor il Qamar i.e. Moonshine) and to print on textiles (Abu Nuwar, the community of Khayma 35). Both, the subject of the training and its location made it possible for less educated women and women with large families to participate in it and allowed them to use their newly acquired skills to combine paid work with household duties.
Another form of support for Palestinian women, who are culturally determined to work professionally only at home, was suggested by the Polish Centre for International Aid. This group of women, among others from the village of Beit Ula, learned to use a sustainable drip irrigation system in their home gardens. Thanks to this technology, they can save 20% of water and thus extend the crop season and increase the general quality of the harvest and its total production by 20-40%. Owing to this technology, they not only can feed their families, but can also sell part of the harvested produce at the local market. The project included training on harvested production management, use of an irrigation timetable and general care of the crops, as well as on food processing techniques. Women also received tools necessary to cultivate home garden crops. With the help of a women’s association the project led to the creation of a community market that offers food, baked goods, handicrafts and other products locally made by women and young people.
East of changes
Poland is also providing support to entrepreneurial women living in Belarusian villages. Thanks to the project dedicated especially for women “Entrepreneurship Activation Academy in Rural Areas," they were given the opportunity to transform their hobby into a start-up or a small company. How does it work? Marina Naydovich from the Small Business Incubator explains: “By paying one base amount annually (about PLN 43 or approx. USD 12 or EUR 10), every citizen of Belarus can become engaged in craftsmanship, create his or her own products and sell them. Our trainees are 76 women who can use the Internet platform «Robіm razam», a free-of-charge website on which they can publish information about their products and about themselves.” In addition, a co-working centre, adapted into a dressmaking studio, was opened in the Entrepreneurship Incubator in Kolodziszcze. The premises were also adapted for workshops on dressmaking and tailoring, and a series of seminars was dedicated to the development of entrepreneurship in rural areas.
Another project that empowers women was implemented in Pankisi, Georgia, a sensitive region inhabited by the Chechen minority. The nature of this region, its culture and traditions attract tourists, and its inhabitants try to make the most of this opportunity to improve their living conditions. Along these lines, the Polish Embassy in Tbilisi in cooperation with the Kakheti Regional Development Foundation, actively advocating equal treatment of men and women in the region, carried out a project that enables women to gain practical skills in running a business. Vocational courses and trainings (culinary, handicraft, accounting, for tourist guides, first aid) were held to let women develop their skills in the area of small tourist business. The aim of the project was to strengthen women’s social role, help them integrate outside their own minority group and increase their self-confidence, which is especially important in distant and close-knit regions. Around 200 women were trained, five of whom received grants to develop their own business.
(Professional) life after life
Vocational support for women is an important aspect of humanitarian projects in eastern Ukraine. The country’s humanitarian situation remains unstable, and the ongoing hostilities affect the lives and health of millions of people. Internally displaced persons are particularly at risk. The most acute needs are observed in towns situated near the border line of the conflict party (Donetsk Oblast), and in the neighbouring oblasts (Zaporizhia Oblast), where a significant part of the internally displaced persons found shelter. The aim of the project financed by Polish Aid was to distribute donations for the purpose of buying basic foodstuffs, medicine and articles of hygiene, as well as to provide support in obtaining access to psychological and legal aid and vocational counselling in three Information and Integration Centres (Zaporizhia, Bakhmut, Avdiivka). The project also provided for the opening of a pre-school care facility and a therapy room for children and young people so that their parents, including their mothers, could become engaged in recovering their professional lives. The project was addressed to displaced people and the inhabitants of the Donetsk and Zaporizhia Oblasts, who were affected by the influx of people fleeing from the east.
Woman fire-fighter to the rescue!
Kenya is one of the fastest developing countries in Africa. According to UNDP Kenya data, in this country with a population of 48 million, one million young people enter the labour market each year, but only 200,000 find adequately paid jobs. One of the reasons why investors are reluctant to build new plants and create new jobs is the lack of fire protection, which creates a high risk for businesses. There are shortages of fire hydrants and escape routes, as well as professional equipment and trained fire-fighters. For these reasons, the Polish Centre for International Aid (PCPM) supported by Polish Aid has been working for the past five years to raise the efficiency of the fire-fighting services.
So far, PCPM experts have trained almost 40% of Kenyan fire-fighters, who underwent basic fire-fighting training and intermediate training in, among others, fires in plants, line rescue, water rescue and first aid. As a result, the fire-fighting service is better prepared to take part in rescue operations, while in some towns the response time of the fire-fighters went down from several hours to 7 minutes! A training centre in the town of Kiambu near Nairobi, which was opened in 2017, provides education for employees and new recruits. There are increasing numbers of women among them who stress that their work is motivated by passion. “Being a fire-fighter is a good occupation, provided it comes from your heart,” says Zipporah Nganga, one of the women recruits. Wangui Gichuri, a fire-fighter instructor agrees with her: “You have a passion, you love your work and want to make sure your community is safe – that’s why you dedicate yourself.”
Arm in arm with men extinguish fires, save newborns, pull people out from under the rubble of collapsed buildings, help victims of road accidents. Under the supervision of PCPM experts and thanks to the support of the Polish Aid, they are currently doing deeds that have been unattainable for them.