Hijjo, 90, dries up the leftover bread pitas collected from other residents in the Shati refugee camp in Gaza Strip on March 7, 2018. She earns her own living by selling the pitas to livestock owners. (Xinhua Photo)
GAZA, March 8 (Xinhua) -- Khadija Hijjo, a 90-year-old Palestinian woman in the besieged Palestinian enclave of Gaza Strip, is always proud of herself as she earns a living by selling leftover bread to fight extreme poverty.
"I'm very proud that I rely on myself at this age to earn my own living," Hijjo told Xinhua.
The lady lives in her tiny run-down home in the overcrowded Shati refugee camp of Gaza city, where poverty and deprivation are trademarks for the residents.
Despite their own struggle in life, the refugee camp's residents extend a hand to Hijjo to help her make a living with their very limited resources.
The residents collect their leftover bread pitas everyday for the old lady, who then dries them up before selling them to livestock owners.
Everyday, Hijjo hangs the leftover pitas on the ropes in her room, and break them into small pieces after they become dry.
"I later put the bread in bags and sell it to shepherds or owners of livestock farms ... This helps me get money to survive," Hijjo said with a proud smile.
Hijjo has been living alone for 20 years. Her husband passed away 30 years ago, and her four daughters are now all married.
"Being alone makes me stronger and more self-reliant," she said.
Years ago, Hijjo was a sewing woman, but as time went by, her age and deteriorating health condition failed her in her job.
Now, she also sells candies and snacks to children who visit her to bring their families' leftover bread. She has been living like this for more than a decade.
Despite the extreme poverty, smile never disappears from Hijjo's wrinkled face, which tells the stories of the years of hardship she has been through.
"I always urge young girls and women to take responsibility and never think negatively," she said.
Gaza has been placed under a tight Israeli blockade since Islamic Hamas movement seized the territory by force after routing forces loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas in 2007.
The blockade has pushed Gaza's 2 million population deeper into poverty as the unemployment rate hits 45 percent, according to official figures.
International organizations and United Nations agencies say that over 60 percent of the Gazan people live in food insecurity, with hundreds of thousands relying on foreign food aid.
A recent World Bank report has also said the Gaza Strip ranks third across the Arab region in terms of poverty rate after Sudan and Yemen.
Moreover, women in the Gaza Strip, like those in the West Bank, suffer from restrictions and discrimination.
To ease this reality, the Ramallah-based consensus government approved on Monday a number of law amendments and regulations that protect women's civil rights.
The moves were taken days before the International Women's Day, which falls on March 8.
The new law changes will allow Palestinian women to apply for passports, open bank accounts and change schools for their children. These rights were only enjoyed by Palestinian men before.
A new law amendment has also been submitted to President Abbas to stop reducing punitive measures for those indicted of women "honor killing."
Figures suggest that women represent 49.2 percent of the Palestinian society. However, the representation of women in public life has been very low, as they are still struggling for civil, social, economic and political rights.
Such moves were widely welcomed and applauded on the social media as well as by pro-women organizations.
"These decisions represent progress in empowering Palestinian women," said Zainab Al-Ghunaimi, director of Gaza's Center for Women's Legal Researches and Consulting.
Al-Ghunaimi described the recent moves as an achievement for Palestinian women rights institutions, which have been struggling to eliminate the discrimination against women.
She urged the Palestinian Authority to come up with more policies to implement the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, which was signed by it about a year ago.