Growing a business and caring for a family, from a refugee camp
This story is part of Kiva’s International Women’s Day Campaign. Through March 8th, we’ll be sharing inspiring stories of women borrowers. You can back a woman entrepreneur today by visiting kiva.org.
Story by Kiva Fellow Rachel Moore and Diana Baule, Kiva marketing intern. Photos by Eric Brandt.
Najah, whose name means “Success” in Arabic, comes from a Bedouin background and is now a successful business woman herself. She raises sheep and goats and sells milk and meat.
She lives with her 5 children in a refugee camp near Jericho, one of the oldest cities in the world, in the West Bank. Her husband lives most of the week in Israel due to his work, so she runs the household and the business.
She’s working in difficult conditions — the West Bank economy is in crisis and many families like Najah’s have to scrape together a living in refugee camps or settlements. Life for women is especially hard and economic and financial opportunity are limited. Most loans in the West Bank are made between family or friends and only 1 in 5 women over 15 years-old have an account at a financial institution, according to World Bank data for 2014.
Despite the challenges, Najah was able to apply for a loan through Kiva’s Field Partner Palestine for Credit & Development (FATEN), which works with small-scale and micro-level entrepreneurs, particularly women.
Her $2,000 loan was funded by 69 lenders on Kiva and she used the loan to buy more sheep and create healthy living conditions for them. She purchased 6 pregnant sheep, which soon gave birth to babies.
Najah says the babies require a great deal of care when they are young. They need help drinking from their mother and the must be kept warm at night because the temperatures can drop severely in a desert-like environment like Jericho.
Najah’s work is deeply connected to her love of animals, which is easy to see when she interacts with her 9 pets, everything from birds to turtles to a cat. The well being of her pets and the sheep and goats are a top priority. The weather can be oppressively hot during the day so Najah is creative and devised a way to secure revolving fans on the ceiling of her shed to allow for air circulation.
The baby sheep and her goats continue to grow and tending to them requires a lot of hard work. Najah is currently repaying her loan, and plans to get a second loan to grow her goat business and build a new home for her family. When Najah heard that her loan was actually funded by many lenders around the world, she was delighted to learn how others had believed in her project — she thanks all her lenders and invites everyone to visit!
Empower a woman entrepreneur like Najah at kiva.org.