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June of this year marks 50 years of the occupation of the Palestinian Territory and 10 years of the blockade of the Gaza Strip by land, air and sea. According to the United Nations, 1.8 million Palestinians in Gaza are still denied free access to the remainder of the territory and the outside world.
The international humanitarian organization Action Against Hunger has launched an advocacy campaign and exhibit of photography in Gaza, to raise awareness of the impact of the blockade on the lives of women who are single heads of households and whose families are dependent upon them for survival.
At least 790 women in Gaza became widows and single heads of households in the last war alone. “The women in Gaza whom we honor in this exhibit have been affected not only by the blockade and violence, but also by early marriage and gender-based violence, which is widespread. Women in the Gaza Strip have become double victims,” said Action Against Hunger’s Head of Advocacy in the occupied Palestinian territory, Elena Dikomitis.
The exhibit, “Ten Readings of a Blocked Decade,” was inaugurated in Gaza on May 16, and features photographs and personal stories of ten women affected by the blockade. All of them are single heads of households. All of them lost their businesses during the 2014 hostilities in Gaza. Some of them lost their husbands, children, and sometimes their grandchildren in the last war
The women, who are participants in Action Against Hunger’s livelihoods program in Gaza, are reviving small businesses such as hair salons, a photography studio, sheep breeding, mini–markets, and rabbit breeding. They agreed to be photographed by award-winning Palestinian photographer Wissam Nassar, whose work has been published in Time Magazine and the New York Times. In July, the exhibit will travel from Gaza to Jerusalem, and then onward to Brussels in September.
“We will find a way, Inshallah,” said Amira, Eman, Wafaa, and Hanaa in answer to questions about how they will continue to meet their daily survival needs, and how they will recover from the impact of the last war on their lives and futures.
“It is challenging to obtain such detailed information in a context where people have lived through three wars in the past eight years. Some of them have lost their homes and businesses during all three wars and have been displaced three times,” said Dikomitis.
With the support of the European Commission (DG ECHO) and the Occupied Palestinian Territory Humanitarian Fund (oPt HF), Action Against Hunger has helped 160 women revive and develop small businesses that were damaged or lost during the last war in Gaza. All 160 women are from the governorates of Rafah and Deir Al Balah, which have the highest rates of food insecurity in Gaza. Almost half of the households in the Gaza Strip (47 percent) suffer from moderate to severe food insecurity.
Through managerial training courses and support to develop business plans, the program helps women relaunch their lost or damaged businesses, while simultaneously helping them forecast revenue and plan ahead. The program provides women with conditional phased cash injections that they use to support the ongoing development of their businesses.
The program helps each woman develop a business plan comprised of three phases: an establishment period of three months, a stabilization period of 12 months, and a consolidation period of two years.
Action Against Hunger has been implementing programs in the occupied Palestinian territory since 2002, aiming to reduce the vulnerability of families and respond to their urgent humanitarian needs, while also improving the economic status of vulnerable Gazans, with a particular focus on women, and working to protect and strengthen the resilience of communities. Action Against Hunger is also actively advocating for the respect of International Humanitarian Law and International Human Rights Law.