When women are empowered, everyone benefits.
“No society can be just, and no human or economic development even-spread and sustainable if women, who represent half of the population, are left behind, if their needs and aspirations are not addressed.”
– Dr. Lamis Abu-Nahleh, founder of the Bir Zeit University Women’s Studies Program
Women and girls are a powerful force in the communities Anera serves. They are mothers and caretakers. They are breadwinners and providers. They are advocates for positive change. They are leaders in their fields and role models for young people and their peers. Strong and inspiring women and girls are at the heart of many of Anera’s program successes.
Anera recognizes that when women and girls have access to educational and economic opportunities, they invest in their communities and improve the lives of everyone around them. When women are empowered, everyone benefits.
In the spirit of International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, Anera is highlighting six programs and development projects that have focused on empowering women in Palestine and Lebanon and have had positive results on their communities.
When the group of women volunteers heard about a new Anera water project in their area of Gaza, they immediately got excited at the prospect of ending years of struggle. Taking initiative, the women divided themselves into groups and started a door-to-door campaign to collect data and encourage local women to attend public health education sessions. The women spoke to their neighbors from any place they could—from health clinics, preschools, tailors and small grocery stores.
“I can never go back to the painful past days. Health is a treasure only seen by those who once lost it,” says Fatima, a participant in Anera’s health education sessions.
With funds from IR-USA, Anera supports eight women’s cooperatives throughout Gaza, helping the women generate income and ease financial burdens in the poor local economy. When women are self-sufficient economically, they are empowered and invest in their communities.
“We’re trying to promote Palestinian culture and identity with our hand-made bamboo products as well,” explains co-op member Doaa Rayes, who used her own home kitchen equipment before Anera supplied the co-op with mixers, stoves, freezers and more.
Recently, Diana formed a girls football team for refugees and members of the local Lebanese community. “At first it was challenging to reach girls through sports, so I started sending my own daughter there to make a point to the community that it is okay and safe,”she says. “Now we have about 20 Lebanese and Syrian girls on the team, and they’ve started participating in tournaments, too.”
“When I got the scholarship from Anera, I felt like finally, I will do something, I will be able to live life on my own, to be independent,” she says. Now, when she looks at other refugees, she recognizes that in many ways she is lucky. And above all, “School distracts me from thinking about my father and about what happened in Syria.”
In Lebanon, nursing is one of the few professions in which Palestinians can legally work, which is why Rayan chose it. “It’s a humanitarian field,” she says. “And it’s good that I can help any sick person I see.”
Excerpt from interview:
Not only is Dr. Fathiya Misyef one of the leading OB/GYNs in Palestine, she is also a well-respected doctor who heads the Al-Walajeh Clinic. Al-Walajeh is a small Palestinian village in Area C of the West Bank, some kilometers northwest of Bethlehem.
I sat down with Dr. Fathiya to talk about life in the West Bank and what it’s like being a female doctor in a conservative society. Immediately, it was clear that Dr. Fathiya was unapologetically herself. I could feel her confidence and bold character before we even exchanged greetings.
As we began, she laughed, “I’ll be giving out autographs by the end of this interview!”
Women don’t always have adequate support in their societies, but when they are given opportunities, they thrive and improve the lives of those around them.
Meet Fadwa, one Palestinian woman who’s making a big difference in her small West Bank town of Al Tireh. She’s one of 600 women to complete Anera’s teacher training course. As a preschool teacher, she has an influence on children during the years that are most important to development. But beyond the impact she has on children, she’s a confident role model for other women in her society who have so much to give.