For Palestinian women in Gaza, working to support a family is not only about earning a stable income but also about standing up to many challenges.
The increasing number of women now responsible for family incomes need to find work to support their families through continuing humanitarian and economic crises.
The Gaza Women’s Loan Fund, which Anera has run since 1995, empowers Palestinian women and helps them find the way to support their families with loans that range from $1,000 and $3,000. The loans are used to support micro-businesses such as kiosks that sell clothing and household items, animal husbandry products for raising pigeons, rabbits and chickens, and home-based food processing.
Nawal Tantawi, 50, started getting loans when the program began in 1995. She used the money to start importing consumer goods from Egypt to sell in a small shop in Rafah. “I travel to Egypt to bring goods,” she said. “Sometimes I take my sons to help me,” said Nawal. Starting a business is challenging and Nawal faced many difficulties but she says she just applied skills she’d learned as a child helping her father and it has worked.
Nawal’s husband was a retired teacher in the southern Gaza border town of Rafah. “I started this shop to help my husband who supported me and our children. We used to swap shifts during the day and at night to run the shop.”
Nawal’s life reflects those of thousands of Palestinian entrepreneurs who cross the border into Egypt (when it is open) to bring goods such as toys, candies and biscuits-and occasionally over-the-counter medicines. Unstable conditions through the years have made many Palestinian families look for other sources of income to keep them solvent during times of unemployment.
A CHANCE TO SUCCEED FOR PALESTINIAN WOMEN
Om Nafez Salama, 60, is a refugee in Rafah who has been a widow for 14 years. She borrows from Anera’s Gaza Women’s Loan Fund to run a handicraft business that produces embroidery with traditional Palestinian motifs. “I decided to rely on myself the day I lost my husband,” said Om Nafez, who is raising her children on her own. “There are no other means to live, but the Gaza Women’s Loan Fund gave me a chance to succeed.”