With school summer vacations coming to an end, August witnessed a peak in the number of events targeting children in the Gaza Strip.
Moreover, it’s Gaza's startups or startup supporters providing lessons to Gaza’s next generation, giving children the confidence to start small holiday businesses.
The Gaza Strip is one of the world's most populous places with over 1.8 million people living on a coastal strip of 360 square meters. Of these half are under 15 years old. At the same time it has a very high basic education enrollment rate, as 95 percent of children attend primary schooling as a minimum.
Yet, prospects for many of these children are grim. Although thousands of them continue formal education by enrolling in high school or undertaking vocational training, and enroll in university, many cannot find work once they graduate. Gaza’s youth unemployment rate is one of the highest in the world. At the end of 2014, 60 percent of youth were unemployed and today, the rate remains stubbornly over 50 percent.
Local entrepreneurs want to address this by educating children from a young age, so once they finish university they are able to become entrepreneurs themselves.
The first ‘Startup Weekend Kids’ in the region
For several years, Startup Weekend has been a hot event in Gaza, but this year the target was children aged 10-15 years.
Fifty children applied to participate to learn about the basics of business, entrepreneurship, and teamwork.
“We work with children now so that they have a head start [in becoming entrepreneurs]. Incubators and accelerators can work with them in the future, and they will find how insightful these young entrepreneurs have become,” said Ahmad Saqr, one of the organizers of the event, which was held at the Qattan child center.
The three day event in August followed the Startup Weekend format where children pitched on the first day and 10 ideas were chosen. Teams were selected to build these and children built a minimum viable product on the second day. They pitched their idea on the last day.
The team of Nour Abu Nemer, a child with diabetes, won with her idea for a mobile app called “Insulin” to help patients with diabetes follow a healthy diet. Other winning ideas included Light Calculator, an app to help children with limited eyesight use a calculator, and Save Me, an app that helps call emergency services for people in trouble.
Israa’ Habboush, Islam Deeb and Yara Hato took the concept of training kids to be entrepreneurs to the next level by launching Gaza Kidpreneur, the first business to nurture children’s entrepreneurship skills in Gaza.
The startup has launched from a crowdfunding campaign in 2015 and was incubated by Mobaderoon.
In its first year, the startup has implemented more than five events for tens of children aged 8-14 years that included entrepreneurship bootcamps, educational workshops, and entrepreneurial event ‘Cocktail day’ in which 28 children made and sold fresh juice to the public.
Habboush said her team had been working tirelessly to support children from different backgrounds. Her startup has worked recently with Injaz to deliver a curriculum tailored for children who wish to learn planning, decision making and volunteering.
Summer ‘Business Camp’ for kids
Fos7a (read as Fosha, meaning ‘trip’) is a Gaza domestic tourism startup that holds tours, and organizes events for individuals and organizations.
Business Camp was Fos7a’s answer to the growing interest among children for entrepreneurship events.
This round was the pilot program and the first of its kind that Fos7a has tried. It’s a summer camp for about 20 children who had to work on their own business ideas, develop them with mentors, and finally present their progress at the end of the camp. It was held across two weeks in August at the local Andalusia shopping center.
Fos7a founder Mohannad Nunu said the camp was a business simulation for children to experience how real businesses operated and to help kids understand business planning for their future careers.
Inspiring the next generation
The feedback following these events was overwhelmingly positive from mentors, parents, incubators and most importantly, children.
Jenan Abu Jarad, a member of the 'Insulin' winning team at Startup Weekend Kids, said participating in the event enabled her to realize her wish to develop a useful app for patients.
Hasan Ali, a child participating in Cocktail Day, said he was thrilled to learn how to create and sell something, and his mother mentioned that Hasan was inspired to create a small business selling sweets during the summer vacation.
Feature image via Startup Weekend Kids Gaza