Two years ago, Zainab started Zeno Food, the first food business in Gaza to cater for people with intolerances and allergies to gluten. Zainab lives in Tel El-Sultan, which she tells us is a densely populated neighbourhood in the Rafah District. There, she lives in an apartment with her parents, brothers and sisters.
Zainab proudly uses only locally sourced ingredients and has recently brought on one staff member to manage the product’s marketing and distribution. In the future, she hopes to expand her business. Her first steps will be to purchase new equipment, and to create industry-standard labels and packaging.
Zainab tells us that this campaign will have a significant impact on her ability to promote and market her products, something so important for a new business. With the funding, she hopes to integrate efficient production processes by purchasing equipment to aid in increasing production and investing in solar energy. When asked where she sees herself and Zeno Food in one year she says,
I would like to own a large unit to produce a big range of gluten-free products, to be able to export my products outside the Gaza Strip, as well as ensure that all new products gain appropriate registrations, and I would like to own a fully equipped workspace.
Apart from the running of her business, Zainab is also a coordinator at UWAF. She joined UWAF in 2019 and has since been engaged in all aspects of the Forum, such as the various activities and training workshops. Zainab tells us she is proud to be a part of UWAF and the Gazan food system.
Not only have they supported me by providing funding, training, and capacity-building, but they have also supported other women agripreneurs. I’m also proud to have my own enterprise that is unique and caters to people with allergies, supporting their health and nutrition.
Highlighting the amazing work of UWAF, Zainab shares with us some of the impact that UWAF has had on the other women agripreneurs. “The Forum has strengthened the resilience of women and their enterprises through learning about our rights whilst actively campaigning. One of the most important campaigns was to produce official labeling for 35 women-run enterprises in order to enable the formal registrations of their products and ensure marketing products easily. The Forum has also supported women through capacity building, providing marketing for their enterprises, as well as funding 49 enterprises with $400 each
Zainab emphasises the importance of having Forums such as UWAF, not only to provide education and legal support but they are a place of resistance and act as a claimed space of power.
"Ultimately, the Forum strengthens the resilience of women and it has formed a safe space for us to defend our rights."