Empowering women who head households in the Gaza Strip

21 December 2011

December 2011
Gaza

UNRWA has launched a new programme to provide training for single mothers and other women who head households in the Gaza Strip, as part of a broader strategy to achieve gender equality for Palestine refugees.

Almost three years after Operation Cast Lead, the scars of conflict and the ongoing economic hardship caused by the Israeli blockade have taken their toll on the women of Gaza. More households are now considered “female-headed”, a group that includes single parents, widows, divorced women, unmarried women, and women married to husbands who are sick or disabled.

Women shouldering the burden of conflict

These women are now in the position of financially supporting their entire families, at a time of record-setting high unemployment caused by the Israeli blockade of Gaza.

“I am a widow and the caregiver of seven children,” said Wafaa, a Palestine refugee living in Gaza’s Beach camp. “I am looking forward to this training, to help me think differently about myself, and to be able to manage my household and secure my children’s future.”

The programme teaches financial literacy to women in the context of managing their household, along with components on child care and personal development.

Greater stigma, greater poverty

Households headed by women are more likely to live in poverty, and they are subject to stigmatization in a society where traditional gender roles dominate. This stigma can cut women off from supportive social networks, leaving them less able to maintain their households and meet basic needs.

“I am divorced and I’m responsible for my seven children in a rented house,” said Nayla, who lives in Khan Younis refugee camp. She registered for the programme to learn how to manage her income with so many competing demands. “I am sure that it will change my life.”

By empowering women to achieve more financial security, the programme will help to ease some of the pressures faced by refugee women and their families living in Gaza.

Implemented through five community organisations across the Gaza Strip, the UNRWA programme is expected to reach 300 households headed by women over the next seven months.

View Photos by Women for Women: Documenting Women’s Lives in the Gaza Strip

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