Women’s Economic Empowerment and Vocational Training for Palestinian Refugees

Palestinian Refugees living in Lebanon are banned from working in most skilled professions, including medicine, engineering, law and most professions that require membership in a professional association. This leaves little opportunity, especially for women living in poverty. To empower women in becoming small business entrepreneurs as well as competitive in the food industries, Mercy-USA is offering vocational skills, English and computer software applications to women in the Nahr El-Barad camp in Lebanon.

This innovative program implemented by the Women’s Program Association and supported by Mercy-USA trains women in the specialty food industries such as food processing, catering, baked goods and cake decoration. The project also aims to increase the participants’ marketability with classes in English and computer software applications. These skills, in addition to the food industries skills will make each student more competitive in the job market as well as empower them to open their own small businesses.

Islam Omar, 23 and a mother of two, rises early to send her son to kindergarten and shuttle her daughter to the home of her relatives to hurry to her classes at the Mercy-USA training center for women’s empowerment. Having left school after the 10th grade, Islam wasn’t able to find a job despite all her efforts. She had always been interested in baking and desserts but didn’t have the training to reach a level where her hobby could turn into something more to help her family. “I lacked the required knowledge and techniques.”   

After seeing a promotion for the school and with her husband’s full support she enrolled in the training program and has mastered the production of western desserts and cake decorating. She has begun a home-based business selling her beautiful creations to friends and neighbors. She’s working hard to earn one of the yearly $500 grants from Mercy-USA to start up a full time business. ““I am forever grateful to Mercy-USA for offering this program. I am eager to develop my own business as I feel more confident and capable after having learned new skills and innovative techniques that cater to today’s market needs.”