International Women’s Day: Two stories from Gaza

Wed., March 9, 2011 – Today, the world is marking International Women’s Day, devoted to honoring women’s accomplishments, promoting their status in society and continuing their fight for equal rights. Through Gisha’s advocacy for freedom of movement for residents of the Gaza Strip, we seek to remove obstacles to women realizing their rights and consequently their potential to contribute to society.

In honor of International Women’s Day, we share two stories which illustrate the challenges life in Gaza poses to women, but which also celebrate their successes in overcoming movement restrictions imposed by Israel and in promoting the status of women across the Palestinian territory.

We will start with the i-Generation. The blogosphere in Gaza is alive and kicking, and young women have a major part in this virtual boom which began in 2008. Women bloggers in Gaza write web diaries, in which they share their daily experiences, report from Gaza firsthand and together, call for human rights, freedom, normal life and peace. Their work was recently highlighted in the Israeli newspaper Maariv, in which Gisha asked that that their access to the outside world be not only virtual but also – physical!

Second, we salute a group of hairdressers from Gaza, each with her own hairdressing salon and impressive experience in the field. Recently, they were invited to join a short professional training course in Tulkarem in the West Bank. However, Israel’s strict criteria for travel between Gaza and the West Bank meant they were not given permission to leave the Strip in order to attend the training. Fadwa Baba, who has been a hairdresser and cosmetician for 25 years and owns a bridal salon, said participating in the course is very important to her: "At these gatherings we learn new techniques and apply them in our salons." After Gisha submitted two requests to the Israeli army, and the news web site Ynet covered the story, the army changed its mind and allowed them to travel to the event.

It is worth remembering that in spite of the great lengths required to ensure the exit of these hairdressers, each month, Israel permits hundreds of businessmen to leave the Strip for trade and commercial opportunities. So while on a day dedicated to advancing the status of women, we are happy to hear such success stories, it is worth remembering just how much more work there is to do before equality is truly reached.