New UNRWA Report Sheds Light on Hardships that Women in Gaza face, Genius Ways to Cope – and Breaking Points

22 November 2019

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for the Near East (UNRWA) has just completed a study on the experiences of women living in the Gaza Strip, which served as a basis for a report called “How Does She Cope?”, released today as part of the Agency’s annual #GivingTuesday #Give4Gaza campaign. The report looks at the coping mechanisms of people in Gaza, particularly women, to see how they make ends meet in the extraordinary circumstances they live in.

“In a place under blockade for nearly 13 years, with poverty soaring at 53 percent and where over 70 percent of the population is made up of Palestine refugees, we needed to understand – beyond the statistics - how women manage lives on a day-to-day basis,” said Dr. Dorothée Klaus, the Director of the UNRWA Department of Relief and Social Services and the commissioner of the report. “How exactly are they coping with what is a living environment of great economic and social stress? Did they have to change long-inherited habits to be able to keep their and their families’ lives together? Did they see their traditional roles change over the years, and if so, in what way and at what cost – psychologically and other? ”

This study relies on interviews and focus group discussions with women in Gaza and is a largely a qualitative enquiry into the daily tradeoffs that they make to secure basic needs, as well as the physical, psychological and social impacts of these choices on women and the community. The report, which uses tens of stories and compelling oral narratives of affected Palestine refugee women in Gaza, seeks to answer key questions including: What is the cost that women pay at every crisis? What means do they apply to cope with severe resource constraints, extreme restrictions on personal freedom, a distorted economy and frequent exposure to acts of violence, including gender-based violence? How has their standard gender role changed and how has this change affected their physical and psychological wellbeing as individuals and their place within the family and with the broader society?

“Listening to all these women during the conduct of the research was an extremely humbling experience,” said Dr. Klaus. “One will never understand the power that exists inside every woman we spoke to unless one has heard her describe how she managed different aspects of her and her family’s life. The resourcefulness of the women we met in Gaza is genius at every level; it is the glue that keeps their community together. But at the same time, all of these women pointed out the very limitations of trying to cope, the great burden weighing on their shoulders as they are talking about the breaking points they have reached.”

The report and the fundraising campaign around it will help buy 400 standard food baskets for families living in hardship in the Gaza Strip.

You can find the full report here.

Background Information: 

UNRWA is confronted with an increased demand for services resulting from a growth in the number of registered Palestine refugees, the extent of their vulnerability and their deepening poverty. UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions and financial support has been outpaced by the growth in needs. As a result, the UNRWA programme budget, which supports the delivery of core essential services, operates with a large shortfall. UNRWA encourages all Member States to work collectively to exert all possible efforts to fully fund the Agency’s programme budget. UNRWA emergency programmes and key projects, also operating with large shortfalls, are funded through separate funding portals.

UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly in 1949 and mandated to provide assistance and protection to some 5.4 million Palestine refugees registered with UNRWA across its five fields of operation. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank, including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip achieve their full human development potential, pending a just and lasting solution to their plight. UNRWA services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, protection and microfinance.

For more information, please contact:

Sami Mshasha
Director of Communications, Arabic Language Spokesperson
Mobile: 
+972 (0)54 216 8295
Office: 
+972 (0)258 90724
Tamara Alrifai
UNRWA Spokesperson
Mobile: 
+962 (0)79 090 0140