Basema Shawahneh is the head of the Kufur Thult women cooperative located in the Qalquiliya Governorate (northwestern West Bank), created within the 4-year Agreement on “Sustainable and equitable rural development in the West Bank including the start and use of responsible management of land and water resources for small and medium farmers”, which was funded by the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID) and jointly implemented with our local partner, the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees (PARC).

Social Promotion Foundation met her again during the rural women trade fair organized in the framework of the International Women´s Day, on the 18th March. The event aimed at boosting the visibility of Palestinian women cooperatives and associations, providing them with a space for selling their products and exchanging ideas and innovations.

As small-scale woman producer in Palestine, Basema was facing several constraints including the high prices of agricultural inputs, weak post-harvest capacities (sorting, grading, packing, and storing) and limited access to extension services and markets. The programme allowed her to start her cooperative in 2017 -where there are now working 19 women- and introduce a dairy unit to produce labneh, a Middle Eastern yogurt cheese that you can find in every Palestinian kitchen.

After the trainings provided in production techniques and marketing, and out of her entrepreneurial spirit, she was able to introduce into her local market the rolled labneh, small balls served with extra virgin olive oil, not an easy task at the beggining due to the resistance from the consumers who were not used to this presentation, but that became their flagship product with the time.

As all the powerful rural women in this context, she is very much looking forward to new opportunities to continue learning and growing up as a female leader in her community. We cannot be more proud of her and all the women fighting hard to change power dynamics and challenge gender stereotypes worldwide.

Thank you, Basema!