This woman is called Dana Hirsh, and she owns a goat rearing and diary produce business in partnership with her husband in Israel. Like many other women across the globe, Dana is not spared from the stereotypes that accompany the classification of powerful women in society.
“Each time people come to this company to discuss business deals, they ask for the owner of the business. They still cannot believe that a woman can own a business. On paper there is equality in Israel like anywhere else but in practice women are still looked down upon and seen as appendages to men,” says Dana.
People in Dana’s community still believe that the woman’s place is in the kitchen, and they call her names for leaving her house to her husband everyday going to her diary production factory.
“I do not listen to these judgements, and my heart is not in the kitchen. My heart is in this company where I produce organic goat milk, goat cheese and goat yoghurt. The nature of our business is such that my husband rears 300 goats at home, in our small plot. He is also responsible for milking them every day, and my area of specialisation if pasteurising the milk and producing the cheese and yoghurt. I own the secret of the business, no one else in the family has learnt how to make chees and yoghurt except me, and that gives me security and ownership. Our son is responsible for marketing. I do not cook or clean the house, my husband does because he is always at home. I am busy here in the factory, producing cheese, yoghurt and milk, and also liaising with the market for sales.”
The beginning of their family business goes back to the days when Dana’s husband was unemployed, and she was a nurse. She gave up nursing to help her husband set up a goat rearing project, and contributed all her earned gratuity towards the business. She went to a school for yoghurt and cheese making, and also attended classes on quality control. After that she sought expert advice and lessons on packaging, branding and pricing, after which she went on search for buyers in supermarkets and other consuming institutions.
“The success of this business is a testimony of my hard work and perseverance, and also of my awareness of my individual rights. I do not view myself as a wife in this business. I am a wife at home, and an equal partner in this business. If I have fights with my husbands the first thing I tell him is that everything else regarding the business remains unchanged. We have made it into diary business in Israel, we are one of the only five diaries that exist in this country, and ours is unique because it is co-partnered by a woman.”
The business story is also a demonstration of what it means to be innovative and creative in business. For Dana innovativeness does not necessarily require the availability of money to happen, it actually precedes the availability of money.
“When we started the business we could not afford to buy a pasteurising and incubation machine, so we worked hand in hand with some engineers and created our own machines at low cost, with their special advice and quality checks. We sought the approval of the health engineer and the Health Professions Council and after that we were good to go.”
Dana challenges women business owners to do business not only for their personal gains but also for the development of other women’s lives and of their communities. She believes that women should be honest business people and always uphold the rights of their workers.
“I give my employees their full labour and social rights, and provide for their pensions and social security insurance. I also train interns and volunteers for free, and give them advice on how to start their own businesses.”
We visited Dana's business as part of the study tour of the women's economic empowerment course that was concluded on the 7th of May 2015 at the Mount Carmel Training Centre, MASHAV (MCTC MASHAV) in Israel. The training was organised in partnership by MCTC MASHAV and UN Women East and Southern Africa Regional Office.