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UN: Gaza mothers force their children to work to survive

A Palestinian child is seen outside her makeshift tent in Gaza City, Gaza [Ali Jadallah/Anadolu Agency]
A Palestinian child is seen outside her makeshift tent in Gaza City, Gaza [Ali Jadallah/Anadolu Agency]

Almost half of the mothers in Gaza feel they are unable to make long-term plans and pressure their children to give up their plans to continue their education in an effort to make ends meet, according to the latest study by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA).

The report sheds light onto how Palestinian women experience and manage lives on a day-to-day basis under Israel’s ongoing 12-year siege of the Gaza Strip and is based on a study conducted between May and August.

Home to more than 1.5 million Palestinians, Gaza’s unemployment rate stands at 52 per cent, according to the World Bank.

“My husband said he was going to Egypt for a week – that was 11 years ago,” said Sana, a 39-year-old mother of eight children.

“First, I sold the furniture. I received a portion of his salary until the PA realised he was out of Gaza and [they] cut it. Things got worse and I knew I had to find a job. I worked in homes caring for elderly people, even changing their diapers. It was hard and disapproved of,” she added.

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Sana admitted that she encouraged her children to find safe jobs as opposed to follow their dreams or pursue higher education.

According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, in 2018, 29.4 per cent of women in Gaza participated in the labour force, while the unemployment rate among females stood at 74.6 per cent.

For women between the ages of 15 to 29, the unemployment rate was even higher, at 88.1 per cent.

UNRWA consulted females from different areas and across the social spectrum, in discussion forums, interviews and home visits they explained that today Gaza is witnessing an increasing number of women who support their families while men are absent or jobless.

“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,” explained Dorothée Klaus, the director of the UNRWA Department of Relief and Social Services and the commissioner of the report.

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“The resourcefulness of the women we met in Gaza is genius at every level; it is the glue that keeps their community together,” she added. “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 Israeli siege on the Strip, which has been reinforced by Egypt, has left the enclave unable to import necessary building materials or other essentials which would help improve the local market. Palestinians in Gaza are stopped from leaving the coastal region as a result of the closure of the crossings. Some 30,000 Palestinians are awaiting their chance to leave Gaza through the Egyptian controlled Rafah crossing, these include patients seeing medical care as a result of the enclaves depleting medical reserves, and students.

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