In the traditionally conservative Palestinian society of the densely populated Gaza Strip, women do not have many opportunities for entrepreneurship. Women usually marry young and raise large families. Yet, a small number of women in Gaza are opening their own businesses and serving as a model to young women throughout Gaza.
Maram Ganem began working at age 32 as an employee at a restaurant in Gaza. Five years later, she decided to start her own business. Today, she owns two restaurants in Gaza: a fast-food place and a fancy restaurant overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. She said that the first part of her dream came true when she rented a small space in a hotel in Gaza City in partnership with a local businessman. Shortly after that, she opened the first-ever fast-food restaurant in Gaza. The success of her projects led to the opening of the Roots restaurant, one of the most upscale restaurants in the city.
Ganem believes that determination and strong personality were the main reasons behind her success. She even represented Palestinians at economic conferences in Egypt. “If you have the will, you can do anything,” she told the Media Line. “I have met my goals despite the difficult political and economic conditions we face.”
She also credits her husband with contributing to her business success. “You need family support to survive in Gaza,” she said. “Men usually control most of the businesses here, and women are the workers or employees.”
Ganem was in Ramallah in recent weeks to attend the National Investment Conference, hosted by the Palestinian Ministry of Economy and Ministry of Tourism, which aims to increase international tourism to the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Representatives from more than 120 companies owned by Palestinians who live abroad came to the West Bank to discuss possible investment.
While unemployment in the West Bank has decreased slightly to just over 18%, in Gaza it is almost 40%. Unemployment is especially high among young Palestinians, including university graduates.
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