On March 8, women in Gaza mark International Women’s Day along with their counterparts in the countries across the globe.
But in Gaza, International Women’s Day is less of a celebration and more of a harsh and painful reminder of three wars in the last decade, and years of siege.
Sabah Abu Assi, 65, blacksmith
“I don’t know anything about International Women’s Day! Being an ‘iron-woman’ is an unmatched celebration for me. I feel proud since I manage my own craftsmen shop and raise my children and am able to send them to college. My father taught me to hunt down all of life’s hassles and put them in a rat trap, even my husband.
Women will be free of her handcuffs by grabbing our rights in every setting.
Hania Zaanin, 40, chair of a women studies association
“The more the conditions of economic misery increase and the more the days of siege add up, means more pressure on the men in Gaza who are proficient in the art of unloading negativity on their sisters, mothers, and wives. So, women are the victim of such conditions and we have to pay the bill, as usual.”
Etaf Salha, 40, tailor
“When I began work sewing traditional clothes in a shop 20 years ago, my husband’s changed the way he treated me for the better, which gave me more confidence to participate in domestic decision-making in our household. But, he used to do that too before I went to work. Men here like women to participate in the workforce, to build up a better life, because of what we have suffered from in the long years under occupation.”
Maha Hussaini, 25, office manager at the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor
“The local community at large still has a discernible bias against women and tries to marginalize our roles and ignore our labor, rights, and self-determination. Women need to be more free, such as when traveling for education, rejecting the idea of early marriage, and choosing a field of work that we want. In spite of the challenges, many of Palestinian women have been awarded international prizes and have our names engraved in gold in global platforms. But we are still stigmatized as inferior.”
Laila Qarmout, 57, a member of the General Union of Palestinian Women
“Our patriarchal society keeps down women by holding them back as they try to push themselves to the front of the line. Women are indoctrinated from the age of five to see ourselves as less than our brothers or less than our husbands. Despite this, we have struggled a lot against the world’s only long-running occupation. Women know too well the iniquity of repression.”
Fairouz Arafa, 67, ex-prisoner in an Israel jail
“Women in Gaza no longer feel happiness in our daily life due to our [Palestinian] political splits and the Israeli assaults. Palestinian women feel more suffering compared any other group of women on the planet, in relation our rights. We don’t blame our men for such suffering since they are our partner in this prison, this torture chamber and this struggle to regain our freedom.
Amal Rqiaq, 46, carpenter
“Israel is very creative in the ways of persecution, torture, and practices of injustices against the Palestinians, while the whole world is silently watching. What type of celebration do our women have to celebrate after being expelled and turned into refugees? I am originally from Eshkol and my children have hardly been taught enough to be familiar with where that is in their homeland.
There will be no celebration for the women of Gaza unless we will return to our homeland.
Salwa Srour, runs a kindergarten and first kindergarten female bus driver in Gaza
“I am so proud of being able to break social barriers with my job, which is traditionally reserved for men. I am the breadwinner for my family and myself. All women who are brave in breaking barriers, regardless what people would say. In China or Brazil no one disgraces each other for the nature of their job, so why do we?”
Anwar Faqawi, 23 business management student
“If you know men who look down on women so much they feel shame when even mentioning the name of a woman, like when they write down their fiancée’s name on a wedding invitation, you can’t believe International Women’s Day is a celebration. In my neighborhood, females are still deprived of their inheritance rights despite her and her brothers growing up in the same home and were breastfeed from the same mother.”
Nada Faqawi, 30, housewife
“International Women’s Day in Gaza should not merely be marking a female-only section in a bank or hiring two or three females in the legislative council, or treating us like birthing machines. The status of women in these extremely harsh conditions [in Gaza] makes us vulnerable to persecution and various forms of oppression at the hands of the [Israeli] occupation forces.”