We met Noora Abdeen Kjalifeh in Barcelona when she was a keynote speaker during UNIDO’s annual female entrepreneurship conference. The many participants – primarily women from the Mediterranean region – gathered to learn more about entrepreneurship and meet other inspiring businesswomen. Most of the attendees had been taking UNIDO entrepreneurial courses in their home countries, and had been granted a special scholarship to come to the Mediterranean Week of Economic Leaders, or MEDAWEEK, in Barcelona.
Noora, a 33-year-old from Palestine, spoke about entrepreneurship – and a true entrepreneur she is. Noora is the founder and CEO of Noora Heritage House, a distinguished Palestinian fashion and interior design brand that fuses ancient embroidery techniques and local craftsmanship to create modern trends.
Entrepreneurship against all odds
Noora was born and lives in Jerusalem with her husband and three children: an eight-year-old son, a six-year-old daughter, and a baby boy. However, when speaking with her, it seems as though she is a mother of four, having also created and nurtured Noora Heritage House.
The occupation has created a very unstable political and economic environment in Palestine, with major consequences for the growth of entrepreneurship. The environment here is far from encouraging, lacking political stability and the required infrastructure and institutional support. Moreover, gender discrimination toward female entrepreneurs is considerable, making it hard for women to succeed.
“When I started my business, I faced many obstacles, such as the traditional societal outlook, as well as challenges in obtaining professional and technical training and legal and financial support,” Noora says.
Giving women the freedom to thrive
Despite these barriers, Noora has built her own empire, employing 80 skilled Palestinian craftswomen at Noora Heritage House. The company’s designs fuse Eastern and Western style traditions, and all products are handmade. The women work flexible hours, allowing them to take care of their families and manage other necessary chores.
“My vision was to help improve the quality of life for poor families in my community, based on the concept of women helping women,” Noora explains. “I have always been inspired by unique, ancient craftsmanship – but also contemporary design. With Noora Heritage House, I wanted to merge the two into a fashion business.”
Still, she continued on her path, believing in the profound necessity of an enterprise that empowers other women. “Palestinian women have a lot of capacity, but due to many restrictions, they are prevented from having their own creative spaces,” Noora explains.
Today, Noora is not only an inspiring entrepreneur who lives her passion, but also a vocal advocate for women in her own country and beyond. “I advise all women to find what you love to do – and to never fear trying,” Noora says.
You can learn more about Noora Heritage House at Noorahouse.ps