Women run independent food production cooperatives in Gaza

The 6 year long Israeli blockade of Gaza has crippled the private sector and has left thousands of Palestinians unemployed and in severe poverty. DanChurchAid is establishing production cooperatives and creating sustainable working places for women.

©Louise Sellau
40 women run the five food processing cooperatives.

We are in Shja’ia – one of the poorest and most conservative local communities in Gaza City. Here DanChurchAid together with the local partner organization MAA’N has established 5 new food production cooperatives.

A crippled private sector 

Since Hamas’ takeover of Gaza, Israel has imposed a policy of Closure on the Gaza Strip. The blockade of Gaza means that Israel issues restrictions on travel and on movements of goods between Gaza and the West Bank and Israel.
The ongoing, sweeping, restrictions have serious socioeconomic consequences for Gaza and its population: About 80 percent are dependent on foreign aid while 34,4 percent of the Palestinians are unemployed. The severe unemployment rate is high due to insufficient job creation in the private sector, which is a result of restrictions on movement and access, investment, exports and imports.

Improved living conditions

Fayza Ahmed Awda, 37 years old, works at one of the production cooperatives. She grew up in Shja’ia, but when Israel enforced its closure on Gaza, the life of Fayza and her family was torn apart. Until 2007, Fayza's husband, Zoher, worked as a construction worker in Israel and he was part of the approx. 14 percent of the Gazan workforce employed in Israel.
As a result of the closure Israel did not allow Zoher and the rest of the workers to re-enter the Israeli labor market and Zoher lost his job. The Awda family, which consists of Fayza, Zoher and their 9 children, therefore lost their only income source.

They were forced to sell everything of value and take loans from family members which were barely enough to survive. Their living conditions were under severe stress; "All of our children suffered from malnutrition", tells Fayza.  
In 2010, Fayza was offered to join the food production cooperative, where she received technical and administrative training in food production and marketing, and today she is the chief chef at the cooperative.
With Fayza's salary the family is now able to meet their basic needs, and their living conditions have improved remarkably.
In addition, joining the labor market has strengthened Fayza's self confidence; "Being a working woman has given me a new belief in myself" says Fayza, who also tells that her social position has changed, and that she is now a decision maker in her own home. 
By Louise SkaarupSellau