On the shore of Gaza, 1.8 million people are stranded under an Israeli military blockade reinforced by Egypt’s border closure. Gaza is known to many as one of the hardest places to live, and even harder to start a business. The United Nations has said that under the current conditions, Gaza could be uninhabitable by 2020. That didn’t stop Madeleine Kulab from defying the cultural norms and starting a fishing and tourism business a decade ago, when she was only 13 years old. She now gives work to five men and owns two boats, which she uses for fishing and offering tours aimed at women and children. Madeleine saw an opportunity created by the conservative Gazan society – women alone might not feel comfortable on a man’s boat. She took out a loan from the Bank of Palestine, participated in a mini-MBA program, and hired a local artist to paint Disney characters on her touring boat as a marketing strategy. Madeleine now makes between 800 and 1,000 shekels a month – about $250. A typical Gazan family on aid gets only 400 shekels a month.
Madeleine Kulab has a remarkable story of courage and perseverance. She gets plenty of harassment for her entrepreneurial decision – Gazan culture certainly doesn’t welcome women entrepreneurs with open arms. Many young people are itching to leave Gaza – but the permits and visas needed make it nearly impossible. Madeleine is a wonderful example of learning to make the most of the current situation, pushing the limits of society and economy. Her life isn’t easy, by any means, but her bravery and determination enables her to provide for her family and give work to others in her community. Madeleine hopes to see other women joining her in her efforts. “I’m just as ordinary as anybody else,” she said. “I don’t want to be the only fisherwoman in Gaza.”
For more on Madeleine Kulab, read her story here.