Mohammed Moussa | 10-03-2018
Samah Ahmed, a 47-year-old widow from Gaza, was sitting on the curb—taking a break from selling vegetables on the street—when asked if International Women’s Day held any significance for her. Her answer: “Nothing; it means nothing.”
For women in Gaza, the “Press for Progress” theme of International Women’s Day 2018 was just a slogan. It’s difficult to focus on gender parity when one’s very survival is at stake.
“It’s not a day for us; it’s a day for women who live outside this place, those women who have enough time to celebrate and party,” Samah said.
After more than a decade of Israeli and Egyptian blockade, more than 70 percent of the population of the Strip, including women, are dependent on aid from humanitarian agencies and nearly half (47 percent) lack reliable access to affordable, nutritious food. Unemployment is the highest in the world—45 percent overall and 66 percent among women, even among those with at least some college education.
Samah got married when she was 18; her husband died of cancer 14 years ago. Since then, she lives her life only for her six kids ages 6-18.
“With my husband dead, all I want in life is to secure the future of my kids,” she shrugged with an exhausted voice.
According to the Hawar news agency, most employed women work as vendors like Samah or in the service sector and either widowed or have ill husbands who cannot work.
Nour al-Rashaida, 33, closed her cleaning-supplies shop because the ingredients for the cleansers she makes are scarce and expensive; she couldn’t pay the rent. No grants or loans are available from local charities or banks.
“My husband works as a taxi driver and cannot provide most of the needs of the house, so we’ve been trying to make this business work for about seven years," said Nour. "We need it to shelter our children and provide them with food and clothing."
Doaa Lubad bakes and sells pastries to support eight children and bedridden husband. "Her job can hardly provide food for our children and for me, and none of the government officials offer help."
It’s up to these women to help support their families, while caring for their children. How can they “press for change” when they are so exhausted they can barely get through the day?
Posted: March 9, 2018
Mentor: Pam Bailey