Changing Lives. One Text Message at a Time.

Palestinian Businesswomen Get Loan Information via SMS

Country: Palestine

Starting your own business in Palestine is never easy. The economy is suffering, bureaucracy can be stifling, and start-up capital is hard to come by. But for women, the challenge is even greater: In a society whose leaders are typically men, businesswomen have to fight for respect and equality in a male-dominated marketplace.

Since 1997, though, the situation has been improving–mainly thanks to Asala, the Palestinian Businesswomen’s Association. For over a decade, the non-profit has been giving small loans to aspiring female entrepreneurs across the West Bank and Gaza Strip. And since early 2009, Asala has partnered with Souktel to send SMS alerts that give local businesswomen information about services and support–straight to their mobile phones.

“The biggest problem most businesswomen face is access to seed funding, so they can get started,” explains Asala’s Hasan Salim. “We help solve that problem by giving them micro-loans so they can move forward and launch their business. But keeping in contact with our borrowers isn’t easy, since many of them live in rural areas with no web or land-line phones. This is where we turned to Souktel”.

Mohammad Kilany, a Souktel co-founder, finishes Salim’s thought: “Asala noticed that most of their borrowers did in fact own mobile phones, even if their access to other technology was pretty low. So we worked together to set up a system where Asala can send news and updates to borrowers via SMS (text messaging). If payments are due, an SMS reminder reaches the borrower instantly. If there’s a training session coming up, Asala can notify women across the West Bank by sending one single text message to hundreds of phones”.

Adds Salim: “We believe that this simple cell phone technology is a perfect way to stay linked to our clients. Being able to send news or key information to hundreds of people at the touch of a button can really help us save time. And it lets our borrowers know that we’re there for them, even if they can’t physically see us every day of the week”.

Kilany agrees. “Women in Palestine often feel excluded and out of touch with their peers, especially in rural areas: If there’s a phone line in the house, it’s for the men to use. But by sending personalized information to women’s own cell phones, we’re helping these female entrepreneurs stay connected–and we’re empowering entire communities of women in the process. It’s amazing what cell phones can do!”

Learn more about Asala’s work:



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