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(MAHMUD HAMS/AFP/Getty Images)

Hard day’s life

In the Gaza strip, conservative ‘women of steel’ are taking on work as a matter of necessity

March 9, 2017

In the socially conservative Gaza strip, only 15 percent of women hold jobs of their own. But in an area with an unemployment rate of 42 percent — the highest jobless rate in the world — in many cases these working “women of steel” have had to become their families’ chief source of income.

In an interview with Al Jazeera, Gaza resident Salwa Srour said she decided to become a school bus driver after her daughter’s male bus drivers proved completely unreliable. When she first began working, she added, she said that the children mistakenly called her “Uncle Salwa.”

“The kids thought only men drive cars,” she recalled. “I broke the traditions. I’m the first lady in the Gaza Strip that drives a bus … It’s really weird for people to see a woman driver, but after hearing my story, they started to encourage me.”

Madleen Kullab, a 22-year-old who took on the responsibilities of her father, a fisherman who was injured and couldn’t work, nearly 10 years ago, said that she might enjoy her work more if Israeli soldiers didn’t start shooting at her boat around five miles away from shore. According to Al Jazeera, Israel has restricted Gaza fishermen to within a six-nautical-mile limit — less than a third of the fishing territory promised to the Palestinians under the Oslo agreements. As a result, the number of fishermen (and fisherwomen?) has declined along with the fish in the vicinity — in the year 2000, there were 10,000 working Palestinian fishermen. By last year, only 4,000 remained.

“I get shot at every time I go out [into the sea] … Anything is better than fishing, even if it’s just for 10 shekels,” Kullab said. On one occasion, she said she witnessed the death of 17-year-old boy fishing with his brothers after “Israeli ships started shooting without any reason, targeting us.”

Ayesha Ibrahim, a 37-year-old female blacksmith who relies on her 15-year-old daughter to take turns with her pounding and shaping the metal they salvage from destroyed houses, said that it took an average of three days to make one item of a value of about six shekels ($1.60). Making the job harder, she added, was the fact that she was currently eight months pregnant. But with her husband unable to work due to injury, she said she saw “no choice.”

“I don’t want my children to be like me in any way and to work like I did when I was young,” Ibrahim admitted. “I want a better future for them.”

Read the full story at Al Jazeera.


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