19 May – 27 May | Issue No. 94
Operational environment: In June 2015, the blockade imposed by Israel on Gaza will be entering its ninth year. It has crippled the once dynamic, export led economy – causing soaring unemployment, rising rates of poverty and food insecurity, and forcing over 80 per cent of people into dependence on humanitarian assistance to meet basic needs. Reportedly, in recognition of the June anniversary, a variety of ships forming the third international Freedom Flotilla to end the blockade on Gaza and deliver humanitarian goods to the Strip have commenced their respective journeys from different ports in Europe and, according to news reports, plan to travel to Gaza.
Daily protests continued during the reporting week. Protestors demanded the payment of their salaries or monthly cash assistance or the release of their relatives and other Palestinians from Israeli jails.
On 20 May, an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) was detonated in northwest Gaza city and injured two persons moderately; adjacent buildings suffered severe damage. On 21 May another IED exploded in northern Gaza and caused minor damage.
Non-traditional job opportunities for young refugee women
Sabrin El Shibari is a trainee in photography in the UNRWA Vocational Training Centre in Gaza. She dreams of opening her own photo studio. Gaza - photo credit: © UNRWA 2015. Photo by Khalil Adwan.
In a classroom in the UNRWA Gaza Vocational Training Centre in Gaza city, 20 young Palestine refugee women shift carton studio walls and spotlights, play with cameras and use software to adjust pictures on their computers. Their enthusiasm is infectious.
“My achievements in school were poor and I was not sure how to proceed; this vocational training in photography offers a real opportunity for me,” said Sabrin El Shibari, a 19-year old ‘over-aged student’ (those who have previously failed two or more years in school) and photography trainee in the Training Centre. “My family is very poor and now I am the only one with a real chance to get a job and provide income to support my family,” she added.
Photography is not a traditional occupation for women in Gaza, yet according to Jamil Hamadd, the Principal of the Gaza Training Centre, there is real market demand for female photographers in the Strip, for example at weddings. “People always get married,” he said, smiling whimsically. But more importantly, “we want to give girls and women a real prospect and ease their access to the local market through non-traditional vocational training opportunities while at the same time respecting local traditions.”
The Gaza Vocational Training Centre commenced courses in 2010 in order to enhance the professional skills and employment opportunities of young Palestine refugees. UNRWA currently offers places for a total of 1,745 trainees through its two vocational training centres in Gaza city and Khan Younis, southern Gaza. Approximately 80 per cent of all participants are from the Strips’ most vulnerable groups, including women and youth. Courses are offered in plumbing, painting, plastering, nursing and counselling, but also in photography and food processing technology. The vocational trainees usually enjoy six months of training in the centre before progressing to a second phase as an apprentice in a private business or UNRWA facilities.
“I believe that this is a real chance for the students. Here we try creating market-relevant employability,” commented photography trainer Bahia Abu-Sultan. “The girls are motivated. They want to move forward, they all want to be economically independent, open a studio together, work in teams,” she added proudly.
Yet despite the motivation of the students, the economic situation in Gaza is challenging and hopes can be crushed easily. The average refugee youth unemployment rate in 2014 stood at 70.1 per cent, according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS); and although refugee female participation rate increased from 8 to 20 per cent between 2006 and 2014 (also according to PCBS data), barriers are still high especially for female refugee youth, for whom the unemployment rate stands at 83.3 per cent. The main cause of this situation is the economic blockade imposed by Israel in 2007 which maintains severe restrictions on movement of people and goods. Consequently, an entire generation is in danger of having no memory of a period prior to the blockade – like Sabrin, who at 19 years has never once set foot outside of the Gaza Strip.
During the reporting week, Israeli forces fired towards Palestinians near the fence with Israel or at Palestinian boats almost on a daily basis. On 19 and 25 May, the Egyptian navy fired towards Palestinian boats, forcing them towards the north. On 25 May, Israeli forces injured three Palestinians while opening fired at their boat in northern Gaza.
On 20 May, three Israeli tanks and three bulldozers entered the Gaza Strip east of Maghazi Camp and reportedly conducted a levelling and excavation operation.
On 20 May, militants fired one test rockets towards the sea; on 24 May militants fired two test rockets towards the sea.
US$ 216 million has been pledged in support of UNRWA’s emergency shelter programme, for which a total of US$ 720 million is required. This leaves a current shortfall of US$ 504 million.
As presented in UNRWA’s oPt Emergency Appeal, the Agency is seeking USD 366.6 million for its 2015 emergency operations in Gaza, including USD 127 million for emergency shelter, repair and collective centre management, USD 105.6 million for emergency food assistance, and USD 68.6 million for emergency cash-for-work. More information can be found here.