Feature: Global aid organization helps Gaza women become breadwinners

Source: Xinhua| 2017-05-30 02:59:15|Editor: Mu Xuequan
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by Saud Abu Ramadan

GAZA, May 29 (Xinhua) -- Amira Mahmoud, 34, was once unable to find a financial source to reopen her little supermarket in southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah, which was looted during the 50-day military offensive Israel waged on Gaza in 2014.

The supermarket, the only grocery shop that can be seen for miles in this part of the southern Gaza Strip, was the only source of living for Mahmoud, a mother of three children, and her unemployed husband. She has been the sole breadwinner of her family and the caretaker of her sick mother.

"My kids are disturbed and are experiencing traumatic distress since the last war on the Gaza Strip," Mahmoud, who wore a red scarf covering her head and a long-sleeve dark dress, told Xinhua. "I was taking my four-year-old son to a therapist because he physically harmed himself."

However, with the assistance of Action Against Hunger, a global humanitarian organization which takes decisive action against the causes and effects of hunger and ensures families have access to clean water, food, training and health care, Mahmoud was able to reopen her store and upgraded it in 2016.

Before she reopened her grocery shop, the woman and her family was living a very hard life in a coastal enclave which has been under a tight Israeli blockade for more than ten years.

"I no longer have to reduce my meals to keep my children fed and I can even buy healthy things like fruits, vegetables and fish," said Mahmoud, who is also an environmental activist.

The mother, who is a vocal women's rights advocate and outspoken about delicate topics, such as Posttraumatic Stress Disorder which is so prevalent in Gaza but seldom discussed openly, said she "can now afford to take them out to relaxing places for fresh air, which reduces their mental distress."

Mahmoud now dreams about building a house of her own, with two little rooms for her children and a well-equipped kitchen. She actively talks about the Action Against Hunger business training, where she has learned how to track margins and profit.

"I've met all kinds of beneficiary women in this program, and we also talk a lot about personal problems aside sharing business ideas together," said Mahmoud.

"I want to expand my supermarket and turn it into a famous brand in the whole province," she added.

On May 23, representatives of Action Against Hunger in the Palestinian territories held in Gaza a photo exhibition of successful stories of ten women from across the enclave who have become breadwinners to feed their families with the help of the global organization.

Gonzalo Codina, the country director of Actions Against Hunger, told Xinhua that the exhibition title was "Ten readings of a blockade decade," referring to ten years of a tight Israeli blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip after Islamic Hamas movement forcibly seized control of the territory.

"This exhibition is a privileged insight into the lives of Palestinian female breadwinners in the Gaza Strip," he said. "The exhibition included photos and intimate stories illustrating the devastating impact of the (Israeli) blockade imposed on the enclave and the wars waged on it."

Action Against Hunger opened in Palestine in 2002 and opened an office in Gaza in 2006, according to Codina, adding that his organization, a Spanish humanitarian organization, provides aid to improve daily life, fight hunger, secure food and treat water problems, mainly in the Gaza Strip.

Sujood Bader, a 38-year-old woman from Gaza, is one of the ten beneficiaries in the exhibition. She is deaf and has a little girl with a huge burn scar across her face, and her husband was killed during the war.

The scar of her daughter led the conversation straight to the horrors of the last war Israel waged on the Gaza Strip in 2014. Her house was bombed when the whole family were sleeping. The mother was severely burned and lost hearing in one ear, and her husband died on the spot.

"My seven-year-old daughter was found under the body of her dead father," Bader said. "She underwent plastic surgery and still needs very expensive creams to treat the burns. She stopped speaking for a while because of the shock."

After the bombing destroyed her house, Bader had to shelter in a school until the war ended, when she received cash assistance to rent a house.

"My husband used to sell O'ouga (sweet donut), but we had no savings," Bader explained. "After the war, I and my daughter relied on food coupons and support from neighbors and families."

With the Action Against Hunger's support, Bader eventually started a chair rental business for weddings or funerals.

"I placed a banner outside and I tell everyone around that I am renting out chairs," she said.

Bader is now active and ambitious, as she even dreams of combining her current business with photography in the future.

"During the war, I realized how important it is to document people's sufferings. And that is possible through photography," she noted.