Amidst the continuing crisis in the West Bank, Palestinian women are finding new ways to bring security to their families and hope to their communities.
Jerusalem/West Bank (IOCC) – Amidst the continuing crisis in the West Bank, Palestinian women are finding new ways to bring security to their families and hope to their communities.
Women such as Tahreer, a 27-year-old mother of four, are learning marketable skills through a new program started by International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC). Through training in agriculture and traditional handicrafts, the women hope to use their skills to earn critically needed income for their families during this time of economic upheaval.
“In my 18 years of working in development, I have never seen such a thirst for quick learning, developing and earning income,” said Nora Kort, head of IOCC’s office in Jerusalem. “Almost every family in the rural areas (of Palestine) is hurting. With men unemployed, women are seeking new opportunities … to bring food to the table.”
Behind the daily headlines, the last 22 months of violence and political unrest have brought rampant unemployment to the West Bank. Men such as Tahreer’s husband, who used to follow the luring call of construction work in Israel, no longer have jobs since Israel closed its borders to migrant labor.
Serious escalations in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict also have damaged the infrastructure of West Bank communities and cut off access to agricultural lands, increasing the hardship on ordinary families, Ms. Kort said. Economic activity based on exchange and movement is at a standstill.
Consequently, one of the greatest needs sparked by the current crisis is employment, she said. “The reality is that people want work, and they should work.”
IOCC, the official humanitarian aid agency of Orthodox Christians, is addressing that need with a program of vocational training, job creation and emergency income generation. The program is part of a $2.6 million rural development project recently launched by IOCC with the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Since the renewed outbreak of violence in April, IOCC has been delivering emergency food, medicine and hygiene supplies in the same areas where it is carrying out its rural development project – the Jenin, Nablus and Ramallah regions.
Ms. Kort said the skills that Palestinians learn through the IOCC project will help them repair their damaged communities and lives.
In Beita, one of six villages near Nablus where IOCC is working, women are learning bee-keeping as a trade. Training is being done by a local IOCC partner. “They will soon get bee hives and will start honey production, which they hope to market within the village – and outside whenever the closure is lifted,” Ms. Kort said.
Tahreer, one of those women, hopes to eventually organize a women’s cooperative for the women bee-keepers in Beita. Her husband has been out of work for nearly two years, and there are no jobs in the village.
In Odala, a 24-year-old woman named Samah is learning traditional embroidery, which she hopes to turn into a marketable skill that will help support her family. Her husband lost his job at a factory in the neighboring village of Huwara after the factory closed down.
Samah and the other women in the embroidery class plan to market their products through the Melia Art Center in Jerusalem, an IOCC partner. Their trainer, Furjon, a 57-year-old Christian from the Old City of Jerusalem, said she has learned some things too.
“I was ignorant about the rural women who are boxed in their villages,” Furjon said. “I feel that my involvement has broadened my perspective, and I am glad to participate in training and enabling these women to get a job.”
Over the course of the two-year project, IOCC will expand the training and other activities into 24 villages in the northern West Bank. To learn more about IOCC’s programs in the West Bank and around the world, go to www.iocc.org.
International Orthodox Christian Charities
110 West Road, Suite 360
Baltimore, MD 21204
(410) 243-9820, ext. 28