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Facebook businesses boom in Gaza amid unemployment

Given the growing unemployment rate and harsh blockade in Gaza, an increasing number of citizens are turning to Facebook to market products and launch small businesses.
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GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — With the increasing number of unemployed youths in Gaza, many young women have turned to social media as a way to both productively use their time and to obtain a source of income. As a result, many Facebook shopping and service pages were recently launched, either by individuals or groups.

Most of these pages are basically concerned with clothes, cosmetics and accessories, yet there are many pages that provide services such as organizing events, preparing gifts or selling homemade food.

The idea seems to be ideal for those who have a little money to invest. They can sell goods, advertise them for free and not pay a single penny for rent in shopping areas. ‫ The pages were welcomed by many female customers, particularly since it is the first time that people in Gaza have experienced online shopping. 

As is to be expected, the owners of these pages had to obtain products not available in Gaza to attract more customers. Most of the page administrators buy items when they travel and then sell them on their pages.

With the idea attracting more people, many of the female administrators started “moving out” of the Facebook pages and occasionally holding exhibitions at restaurants in Gaza. Restaurants usually do not take rent from these girls since the exhibitions can bring in more customers.

Aya Abu Shaaban, 27, has a bachelor's degree in English literature and cannot find a permanent job in her field. She found Facebook to be the easiest source of income. 

Abu Shaaban, along with her friend and sister, created a page on Facebook where they sell clothes they get from Jordan. She also prepares chocolate gifts. She told Al-Monitor that Facebook was the quickest route to owning her own business without having to pay taxes and rents, yet she suffers from the fact that people in Gaza are still unfamiliar with online shopping.

“However, it’s a good and easy way to work online, yet I understand people here have a problem with trusting online pages. Also, customers always want to try things before buying them, which is not so easy when you shop online,” Abu Shaaban added.

‫ Alongside the online clothing shops, many pages are dedicated to selling homemade cakes and food. House Cake, which makes cakes for various occasions, is one of the most popular pages.

Nawal al-Ghoul, 31, who runs the page with her husband, said she used to prepare cakes for her family before advertising through Facebook. She decided to launch her own business two years ago. Nawal told Al-Monitor that her small budget didn’t allow her to open her own shop, yet Facebook was enough for her needs.

“I can easily advertise my cakes online without having to pay much money for my business. Also, I can stay close to my children at home,” Ghoul added. Yet, Ghoul also said that she suffers from the lack of raw materials she needs for her cakes.

“My relatives often get me the materials I need from outside Gaza, yet they can’t always do this due to the constant closing of the borders,” Ghoul explained.

Regarding exhibitions, Abu Shaaban said they have become boring. “Exhibitions used to be interesting at the beginning as it was an original idea, but it’s no longer the same as they have became so many,” she said. 

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) recently put the unemployment rate in Gaza at 45%, the highest in the world. Consequently, youth have found themselves obliged to create sources of income or leave the country.

Despite the idea being original, the pages’ administrators complain about their ideas being stolen by other pages, which is the biggest problem they suffer.

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