Go Digital training: From unemployment to job opportunities

Four young Gazans now have careers as WordPress freelancers after building their skills and qualifications to work online.

Despite having a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering, Rasha Alaswad struggled for almost two years to land a job in the field. After finding work on one engineering project, the young Palestinian faced rejection after rejection – due partly to Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip, partly because the local market already has multitudes of engineers and partly because there are simply few engineering opportunities. But the biggest obstacle was the fact that she is a woman.

‘The stereotypical image the community created of what jobs are decent for girls and what are not started to get the best of me,’ Rasha says.

But as the saying goes, when the going gets tough, the tough get going. And that’s just what Rasha did: she switched her career focus and applied to the International Trade Centre’s (ITC) Go Digital initiative, training to become a freelance specialist in WordPress. After completing the five-month programme, which involved technical, Freelancing and soft skills training as well as coaching, she joined up with three other trainees – Sahar Abu Ruwaida, Ali Shaat and Khalid Abu Abda – who selected the same track because WordPress is one of the most demanded skills in the technology market.

And now the work is pouring in.

‘As a group of friends, we supported each other to apply for more jobs,’ Rasha explains. ‘And guess what? Clients started to reply and assign us jobs. We completed the jobs and submitted them as a group of friends as well, supporting each other technically and morally. Later on, we considered the idea of [eventually] working as an agency.’

Sahar, Ali and Khalid also faced obstacles before joining Go Digital, which ITC administers in partnership with the Business and Technology Incubator (BTI) in the State of Palestine with funding from Japan. Sahar says she applied ‘in vain’ for jobs in a medical laboratory while Ali was unable to find work as an interior designer. Khalid faced disappointment trying to help his family and become a role model for his younger siblings ‘when Gaza is sinking in the dark’.

Go Digital changed that.

‘Long years of study were not enough to get us a decent job,’ says Rasha, 25. ‘Opportunities here in Gaza are like a miracle; it’s like looking for a needle in a haystack. As is the case for most of my peers in Gaza, we all ended up sinking in darkness, fear, fury, frustration and depression. These terms identified us before landing on BTI and joining the Go Digital project.’

Raising expectations and hopes

The young trainees were seeking skills, job opportunities, a ‘great community and partners along the journey’, she says. ‘Luckily enough, we found them all. The Go Digital project, with its great organization, supporting environment and great choice of trainers, mentors and even trainees, has succeeded to raise our expectations and hopes.’

Since February, Khalid has worked on a whopping 20 jobs – including a full-time contract with a company in the United Arab Emirates – pocketing $6,800. Rasha has made $895 working on seven projects, while Ali has completed three jobs worth a combined $700. Sahar has worked on two contracts, earning $295.

But beyond the much-appreciated income, the four young Palestinians have also gained self-value and confidence in the future, Rasha says. ‘The language of figures is beautiful and maybe you can trace it by looking at the revenue report, but the effect of the Go Digital project is bigger than revenues. It reached not only individuals, but also a whole community.’

‘Life has finally accepted us after we got the chance to be trainees in this track,’ she says. ‘One is born when he makes a choice, and we chose to be born again in the GoDigital project.’

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