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Gail Asper

From the Canadian Jewish News: Asper Foundation trains Arab women for work

By SHERI SHEFA, July 7, 2011 originally posted at

Canadian philanthropist and CanWest Global Communications director Gail Asper hopes that a new entrepreneurial program will empower Arab women in east Jerusalem to join the workforce and contribute to a “peaceful society” in Israel.

Speaking to The CJN in Jerusalem during a weeklong meeting of the Hebrew University’s board of governors – a position Asper joked she inherited from her late father, Izzy Asper, in 2002 – she said she was happy to facilitate a project that would bring Jews and Arabs together for a common goal.

In 2007, the Asper Center for Entrepreneurship at Hebrew University of Jerusalem joined forces with the Al-Quds Dialogue Center, a non-political organization in east Jerusalem created and chaired by an Arab entrepreneur named Fuad Abu Hamed.

The result was the east Jerusalem BizCamp – modelled after the Curry BizCamp of Entrepreneurship in Winnipeg – which was meant to provide young Arabs, including women from east Jerusalem, with the opportunity to gain experience and learn skills needed to start a business.

She said that while the BizCamp was a success that assisted young Arabs with their entrepreneurial goals, most of the male participants refused to work with women.

“So we decided, let’s just work with the women,” Asper said.

A three-year Empowerment Through Entrepreneurship program, set to launch in the near future with the help of the Canadian Friends of Hebrew University, was established to provide Arab women with the opportunity to train for the workforce and become contributing members of Israeli society.

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