Palestinian Women Economic Empowerment Initiative

Project Number





Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC)





Unit Responsible

Regional Office for Arab States


Palestinian women refugees’ work in the informal economy is often in activities with marginal returns and occupationally segregated. They receive inconsistent and often inadequate wages, work in insecure job environments, and receive little or no social protection. They have neither the security of property rights, nor the bargaining power and leverage to improve their choices. They predominantly work alone and have yet to tap into the potential power of pooling their resources to reach a common business goal. Their work is rightly termed “informal” as it is “not recognized, protected or regulated by the public authority.” For Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, structural obstacles, including legal and institutional obstacles, force their work in the informal economy, since they continue to be precluded from basic labour rights by law. As a result, the bulk of all employment for Palestinian refugees is in the informal economy, characterized by poor-quality employment, the absence of rights at work, inadequate social protection, and the lack of representation and voice. Palestinians are not legally entitled to form voluntary associations between themselves, including cooperatives. Instead they form “gatherings,” which behave as informal cooperatives and are predominantly concentrated in agriculture, manufacturing and handicrafts sectors. Subsequent to the 2007 NBC crisis, it is estimated that 30,000 refugees were displaced while 5,000 families lost their main source of livelihood. The ILO has been implementing projects on women entrepreneurship development and promoting workers’ rights in the informal economy across the region and will draw upon this knowledge, expertise and experience in the implementation of the initiative.


The development objective of the project is to address decent work deficits at work in the refugee camp economy of selected camps in Lebanon, while promoting economic empowerment and cooperation among women entrepreneurs. It focuses on:

  • Identifying the decent work deficits in order to demonstrate the need for humanitarian aid contributing towards improving the lives of refugee women entrepreneurs.
  • Protecting low-income entrepreneurs from risk through creating sustainable income streams, helped by business group formation for resilience, pooling of resources and collective voice.
  • Helping growth of survivalist economic activities into more economically viable businesses with improved livelihood opportunities

Expected results

Upon completion of the project, the following results will be achieved:

  • Enhanced capacity of women entrepreneurs to work collectively to address common decent work deficits.
  • Improved knowledge of decent work deficits for Palestinian refugees in informal economy (through decent work survey).
  • Increased institutional capacity of local service providers to provide business development services to the community.
  • Knowledge transferred and capacity of local service providers developed to administer and deliver business group formation training to the local community.
  • Local service providers are formally certified to deliver the Business Group Formation module.

For further information, please contact:

Simel Esim

Last update:03.04.2012

Document symbol: LEB/10/03/SDC
Document Type: Note
Document Sources: International Labour Office (ILO)
Country: Switzerland
Subject: Assistance, Economic issues, Refugees and displaced persons, Situation in Lebanon, Women
Publication Date: 04/03/2012