Taking the Initiative at Taybeh
Photo: Azzam Shabib
West Bank Women’s Cooperative Branches Out from Honey to Sheep
Taybeh, West Bank (IOCC) “The women of Taybeh were marginalized, and not involved at all in the economic development of the village,” says Abeer Khourieh, the head of a cooperative for women in the blue-collar West Bank village of Taybeh. But what a difference a few years and an IOCC Jerusalem program can make. Not only have the women in Taybeh learned skills and become financially self-supporting through the IOCC honey-production program begun in 2003, on their own initiative they have branched out into other businesses and are even marketing their products.
Taybeh, a scenic village in the olive grove hills north of Jerusalem and Ramallah, is considered the last all-Christian village in the West Bank. But Taybeh residents are under the same curfews, closures, roadblocks and checkpoints that make life for all West Bank villagers an every day endurance test.
Nine Taybeh women were trained in honey production in 2003, which they mastered so well that they became trainers and equippers of other women in other villages. The honey production project was just one part of IOCC’s integrated program for Taybeh, which also addressed education and the needs of children by repairing and expanding the village’s Orthodox school and building and equipping a library and computer center. The library and computer center were funded by Hellenic Aid and the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
In 2005, the Taybeh women formed and registered a cooperative for development and immediately began seeking opportunities to expand their business. Through a private donation, the cooperative purchased 19 sheep this past summer. The women will make and market their own cheese and labneh (Middle Eastern yogurt). The women are also branching out into horticulture, with plans to grow chamomile, mint and zataar (thyme). They have plans to break into the European market. “Just as in the honey production, the women had to be trained in the agricultural work,” says Nora Kort, IOCC Head of Office for Jerusalem/West Bank. “But I am sure that they will not only be successful, they will do what women always do when they learn a skill, and that is to teach others, spreading knowledge and hope.”