Women in Gaza determined to overcome economic, social challenges
In the closed-off and poverty-stricken coastal enclave, women are starting to take a far more active role in male-dominated economic and social life, but many challenges remain on the road to success for the Strip's female entrepreneurs
Dec 24, 2020
Palestinians in the tiny coastal enclave of Gaza, home to over 2 million people, are struggling to survive in the dire reality of worsening health and economic crises through the efforts of youth who have started to think out of the box.
Women, in particular, are showing greater and greater independence and engaging in “male domains,” despite many significant restrictions and challenges.
Alnajjar, Qudaih and Aburok working the land they rented in the Khuza'a area
Aseel Alnajjar, Ghaida Qudaih and Nadeen Aburok, three female university graduates from the Khuza’a area, in the southern governorate of Khan Yunis, have impressive academic and voluntary work track records, yet they never found any paid work.
The young women refused to surrender to unemployment and took matters into their own hands: They rented a 3-dunam (0.74-acre) plot of land and planted, with the help of a young man, a pea crop.
“Our [academic] specialties have nothing to do with agriculture but we want to be productive individuals,” said 24-years-old Qudaih.
“What helped us to do it is that we live in a rural community that basically depends on agriculture and our families have good experience in that field. Moreover, we make sure to consult agronomists before taking any step and we have a fourth friend named Khalil, who helps us doing the hard work,” she added.
It was then that they then managed to expand their operation adds her friend Alnajjar.
“There is a local association that decided to help us after seeing our work in planting the pea crop, so they provided us with irrigation networks, seeds and pesticides, which enabled us to rent 5 more dunams [1.24 acres] to plant carrots,” she said.
Their small enterprise did so well that four men, also university graduates, joined the team to help work both plots, Qudaih said.
However, many challenges remain on the road to success for the female entrepreneurs.
The first female Palestinian taxi driver in the Gaza Strip, Nayla Abu Jubba
The land is only 500 meters from the border [with Israel, which is considered an access restricted area]. Moreover, the entire agricultural area is uninhabited, so there is a risk of attack from dangerous stray animals. Not to mention the heavy cost of irrigation and the continual power cuts, but we are planning to plant more than one crop a year to minimize our losses,” Alnajjar added.
Another brave female is Naela Abu Jubba, who chose to go a little bit further and become the Strip’s first female taxi driver, for women passengers only.
Abu Jubba, a mother of five and the head of a seven-member household, named her taxi service “Almukhtar,” the feminine of an Arabic term meaning the person in charge/the leader, referring to her strong personality.
She managed to add a second car to the service, yet her business, which started two months ago, is going through rough times due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Because of the lockdown measures, “the situation is very miserable. I only get between three and four fares a week,” she said.
“A woman should be free to make her own decisions and choose her own way of making a living. I do face challenges, such as bullying, but I keep moving forward and pay no attention to those who negatively impact me,” Abu Jubba added.