Jordan, Egypt, and Palestine—Arab Women’s Enterprise Fund (AWEF)

Client: U.K. Department for International Development, Islamic Development Bank

Duration: 2015-2020

Region: Middle East and North Africa

Country: Egypt, Jordan, Palestine

Solutions: Economic Growth

Funded by the U.K. Department for International Development and the Islamic Development Bank and working in Jordan, Egypt, and Palestine, Arab Women’s Enterprise Fund (AWEF) is the first project of its kind. AWEF stimulates increased women’s economic empowerment and agency through a market systems approach. This partnership addresses gaps in women’s economic empowerment in the region, which has one of the lowest rates of female labour force participation in the world. AWEF aims to improve gender awareness and sensitivity across target companies’ human resources policies, increase employment and retention of women in the labour force, and raise awareness and uptake of standards and certification of products made by women working at home.

AWEF is the only market systems-based development programme in the region that also puts women’s economic empowerment at the core of its objectives and impacts. DAI is joined by subcontractors Market Share Associates, a global social enterprise focused on collaborative approaches to international development, and Education for Employment, a nongovernmental organization working throughout the Middle East and North Africa.

Sample Activities

  • Support businesses to increase the focus on women’s working conditions in Egypt’s food retail, citrus, and ready-made garment sectors, and on gender-sensitive recruitment, human resource management, and training policies. 
  • Assist home-based female producers in Jordan’s dairy sector to raise awareness of the value of testing and certification of products to increase their competitiveness and value.
  • Work with government standards institutes, the private sector, and women producers of food products such as maftoul, cheese, and yoghurt to streamline certification processes and services and better enable women to move up the value chain.
  • Support introduction of fee-based, female paraveterinary services to make basic animal health care services more available locally, particularly to home-based production run by women.

Select Results

  • Launched a Women’s Economic Empowerment Unit in Jordan.
  • Designed and developed a customised AWEF Disadvantage Assessment Tool, now in use in all three countries.
  • Started training at least 30 women in Palestine to become paraveterinarians and work with female sheepherders in rural areas.
  • Set up a milk supply network of 189 to 250 women with a dairy processing company; it will be scaled to 500 women in the following year.
  • Engaged with major Egyptian retailers to increase the hiring of women.


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Essor acts at meso (business associations) and macro (government) levels to improve the incomes of the poor through the development of micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), including women- and youth-owned and ones in rural areas, through reforms to the country’s investment climate and policies.

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