Empowering Marginalised Women in Gaza

Women at a fitness session to improve their physical health
Supported by Paula Cox
Lirios para Palestina

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Fitness class: women improving their physical health 

In many societies, women face legal and social discrimination affecting their daily life. With the ongoing impact of the siege on Gaza and the closure of the crossings, and the long delays in repairing destroyed infrastructure and badly damaged hospitals, schools and homes following the Israeli military bombardment of Gaza in August 2014, Gaza is facing high levels of poverty and international aid dependency. In addition to these challenges women in Gaza are further restricted by discriminatory employment regulations, as well as traditional values and culturally imposed views of accepted roles for women. The female labour participation rate in Palestine in 2014 was only 19.4%, compared to the global average of 51%. Almost 70% of women in Gaza are living in poverty. The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics attributes the increasing poverty among women to their limited access to the job market as a result of discriminatory regulations, cultural beliefs and the gap in education and labour market needs. The private sector needs skilled women in many vocations and is prepared to provide job opportunities for them, however, the education sector lacks courses in vocational training that could lead to sustainable employment.

The female labour participation rate in Palestine in 2014 was only 19.4%, compared to the global average of 51%. Almost 70% of women in Gaza are living in poverty.

Within their families, Palestinian women are facing psychological stress from the conflict, from difficulties managing the home and meeting family needs and from deteriorating living conditions. Thousands of households no longer have a regular income with the main wage earner unemployed due to the prevailing political and devastating economic conditions in Gaza. As a response, Welfare Association is empowering some of the most marginalised women in Gaza, enabling them to cope with these challenges with a number of interventions and activities that will help alleviate stress, empower women by raising awareness of their rights, improve health by the provision of a range of health services and build their capacity and skills through training and employment which will bring a much needed income to the family home.

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Women attending a legal awareness session 

This project will support 200 women with the following activities:

  1. Awareness raising sessions discussing national legislation and international conventions, especially for those who are divorced, widowed, new graduates and /or living in poverty.
  2. Training in key health issues including the importance of a healthy diet, strategies for supporting those with injuries / long term illnesses, the early detection of cancer.
  3. Individual counselling and guidance to support the women’s own psychosocial needs and for them to learn how to appropriately support their family members who may also be traumatised or in need of psychosocial support.

These activities will improve the physical health and mental well-being of these women and their families.

The project will also establish the following facilities:

  1. a fitness centre to help women improve their physical health and reduce stress levels;
  2. a beauty salon to provide women with vocational training, and,  
  3. a conference room to host training sessions, workshops and group therapy sessions.

This project will also create 20 job training opportunities (of four months) for women who have been trained in the beauty salon which will enable them to attain the practical skills.

Additionally, it will employ women in a sewing factory where they receive training in designing, cutting and sewing, after this training women will be able to produce sports outfits and bags needed for the fitness centre members.