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Sunday, August 5, 2012

BLOCKADE Gaza women suffer, far-reaching human costs

Jilbāb, Zanzibar
image for illustration
Guardian article “Women in Gaza: how life has changed” by Angela Robson, a journalist who covers development, gender and human rights
Editing by Carolyn Bennett

Israel against people of Gaza

“Before the blockade,” her husband made “good money working in Israel,” a woman of Gaza tells uardian reporter Angela Robson. The blockade ended all that and she took the brunt of his pain. 

When he can’t find any work and we have nothing to eat, he blames me. He is like a crazy animal.  

I stay quiet when he hits me.  

Afterwards, he cries and says, if he had a job, he wouldn’t beat me. 

This 23-year-old woman (Eman) is described further by Robson as being “dressed in a black veiled jilbab and living in a collapsing shack on the outskirts of Gaza City” where “an open sewer flows past her front door and rubbish streams into her kitchen” when the rain comes. She is a woman who left school at the age of 10 and seven years later was married and a mother.

“Behind the blockade, conservatism rises,” the news story reports, as do “unemployment, poverty, depression, and domestic violence.”

Fact and consequence of oppression 

The blockade cuts off 1.6 million Palestinians from the rest of the world. Unemployment reports show “more than 45 percent of working-age people are jobless, one of the highest rates in the world.”  

Deepening unemployment, fear of violence and restrictions on movement leave women and children to bear the brunt of men’s reaction to these unacceptable conditions. A staffer with Oxfam Gaza told the press that, as unemployment deepens so does domestic violence and underneath the acting-out behaviors are multiple issues: “psychological trauma, the feeling of being trapped, rampant poverty.” 

Women of Gaza 

Azza al-Kafarna is a women’s rights activist, manager of the Gaza news agency Ramattan and someone described as refusing to bow to conservatism. However, she said women of Gaza generally have been frightened into covering up and keeping silent.   

“Up until the 1980s, she said, “we were wearing swimsuits on the beach.”  Now women “are covering themselves more, not necessarily because Hamas tells them to; but because they are afraid.”

Though the pressure backward does not return women to conditions prevalent during the 1987 intifada when stones were thrown and criticism hurled at women who did not cover up, life for women “still feels precarious. The veil for some women is perhaps a physical shield against the world,” Azza al-Kafarna said; but “it may also … be one of the few things over which [a woman] feels she has control.”

Sources and notes

Some names in the news report were changed to protect women’s identities.

“Women in Gaza: how life has changed” (Article by Angela Robson, a journalist covering development, gender and human rights), July 30, 2012, http://apps.facebook.com/theguardian/world/2012/jul/30/women-gaza-life-changed


Image: Woman weaing jilbāb, Zanzibar, http://www.flickr.com/photos/funkstop/50161592/
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