THE BLOG

Turning Sheep into Success in Palestine

03/21/2014 01:39 pm ET | Updated May 21, 2014

Any person's work performance shouldn't be judged based upon one's gender; it should be evaluated based on one's production and performance results.

Growing up in a village and helping on my family's small farm, I knew I loved animals and someday wanted to own my own farm. But female owned farms are not common in Palestine. Traditionally a man will own a farm, and the women in his family will assist him with the work.

It would be more difficult for women to join the farming work than men because the community in Palestine doesn't perceive women to have the skills and physical endurance that the farming work requests.

It was time to prove them wrong.

I loved nature and I had a dream to own a scientific farm different from what we have in the countryside. And because actions speak louder than words when achieving one's career aspiration, I started my research about how to start this farm, farming practices, and raising livestock.

My dream was to establish a farm that specializes in breeding, raising and selling organic Merino sheep. This type of sheep is very special since it is leaner and has more meat. My goal was not only to provide my customers with healthy, organic sheep, but also to meet the demands of the market. In Palestine there is a shortage of supply. This led to increasing prices in meat and I know my business could help meet this demand.

I also dreamed about hiring of new employees, specifically young women like me. I see this as a way to have a positive impact on the currently weak job market in Palestine. Therefore, I established the "Solidarity Sheep Farm" hoping that it will serve as an example of success for hardworking female entrepreneurs in Palestine.

This experience was a tough one for many reasons.

Farming is male dominated work, where women are somehow excluded from it. When people heard about my project, they directly started underestimating my abilities wondering how a woman would be able to run a farm.

However, I ignored these sexist, stereotypical comments and moved forward. I think what enabled me to keep going and ignore this unjustified criticism is the encouragement and support I received from my family who have faith in my capabilities to make this project a real successful one.

Another problem I faced is the lack of information that I had about farming and starting a business, since I studied sociology in university and this work is not related to my field of education at all!

However, these challenges didn't hinder my way in achieve my goal; on the contrary, I worked so much harder to make it happen.

During the process of planning and implementing my life long project, I noticed that I lack important farming knowledge and some skills like analyzing competitors and finance and managing operations. I participated in many field training courses in different farms which gave me practical experience about the subject matter. And I developed my business plan with financial statements and learned to oversee production and operations and marketing through the Entrepreneurship program that Palestine Education For Employment (PEFE) and Intel provide.

There are some unforgettable moments during my career development such as the first livestock purchase deal, preparing a budget for the first time, marketing and selling the livestock, making the first connection with other farmers, merchants, and butchers. In 2010 I started my work with 11 sheep, in 2012 I extended my work and had 50 sheep, and today I have seventy sheep in 2000 square meters of land.

I don't want to say that I'm equally or more successful than other men doing the same work. Instead I can say that I'm a strong competitor in this field of work because my farm is established based on scientific and technological research and not like other farms that are established on traditional farming methods and outdated information.

Today I'm able to transfer the knowledge and experience I gained to university graduates and specially other Palestinian women to encourage them and tell them that nothing is impossible. I have many people visiting my farm to learn about the business model that led to having a profitable business.

The sky is the limits and nothing will stop me! My ambition is to expand my work not only locally but also internationally and I believe I can do it!

This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and Education For Employment (EFE) in conjunction with Arab World Mother's Day. The series highlights the collective personal, societal and economic impact of women employees, employers and entrepreneurs in the Arab world. EFE's mission is to create job and entrepreneurship opportunities for unemployed youth in the Middle East and North Africa. For more information about Education For Employment click here.