"The Reality of Women in Al-Mawasi Neighborhood in Rafah"
Women's Affairs Center - Research Program
Researcher: Hedaya Shamun
Women are in a closed circle as they are simple and rural. Some are educated, but the largest proportion of them is illiterate. They have a thousand apprehensions about the caskets of life: poverty and unemployment. Their lives revolve in the orbit of constant fear of how to manage everyday life. Their deep concern is always over the future of their children whose childhood was robbed by the brutality of the Israeli occupation. Accordingly, this study idea depends upon identifying the needs and concerns of women in Al-Mawasi neighborhood.
Objectives of the Study:
The main objectives of this particular study include:
1 - Identifying the social, economic, and health situation of women in Al-Mawasi.
2 - Identifying the effects of the Israeli occupation on women in Al-Mawasi.
3 - Providing an updated database on women in Al-Mawasi to women's and civil society institutions. This is to identify the needs and demands of all women in the target area, in order to be covered by and included in the plans of the concerned institutions.
Importance of the Study:
The Israeli blockade, since the beginning of Al Aqsa Intifada and until the withdrawal of the Israeli occupation from Al-Mawasi, has been an additional burden on women's lives. The importance of this study comes as a result of the lack of a database of women and the lack of adequate information of their needs in Al-Mawasi neighborhood. This makes the capacity of NGOs to define these needs limited since these needs are individually and randomly identified. The study will be an essential reference for any special studies on the neighborhood. This study also sheds light on the marginalized areas in the Gaza Strip as well as the compounded suffering of the rural women.
Methodology of the Study:
In order to realize the objectives of the study, the researcher used the analytical descriptive method, which fulfills the purposes of this study. There was a try to approach the feminist research methodology. The study used the following tools:
1- Literature Review: It was used due to the lack of studies on Al-Mawasi neighborhood.
2- Focus Groups: Two focus groups were held in Al-Mawasi, in order to listen to the concerns of women and to give the opportunity for women to freely participate and share their views.
3- Interviews: Two interviews were conducted. One was with one of the women leaders in Al-Mawasi. And the second was with a director of civil society institutions serving the people of Al-Mawasi.
4- َQuestionnaire: Data were collected through questionnaires. The data entry, transcription, and analysis were done using the statistical program, SPSS.
Study Sample: There was a random sample of (102) women, aged between (18-45), selected from the study population. And all questionnaires were retrieved.
Situation of Women during the Israeli occupation:
A very difficult period:
(93.1%) of women in Al-Mawasi confirmed and described the period of occupation as "Very Difficult." And (5.9%) of them confirmed it was "Difficult." This is to say that almost all women agreed that they and their families faced difficulties during the Israeli occupation.
Also, (65.7%) of women was personally affected by the Israeli occupation practices, while (34.3%) of them was not.
Deterioration of Psychological Situation of Women:
The majority of women confirmed the damage inflicted upon them as a result of the practices of the Israeli occupation. The deterioration of psychological situation came in the first place with almost (70%). This means that most families were harmed by the Israeli occupation, which still has negative effects on women despite the Israeli withdrawal from their neighborhoods. Also, the five-year blockade has worsened their life. The dispersion and forced migration of family members came second with (13.7%).
Needs of Women from Institutions:
There is exactly an unclear relationship between the women in Al- Mawasi and institutions actively working in the same neighborhood. Women do not have confidence in all institutions; they feel these institutions did not offer them a lot. (25.5%) of women are dissatisfied with the role of institutions. (6.9%) of them are totally dissatisfied with the role of institutions. They stressed that no one supported them. While (11.85) of women are strongly satisfied with the role of institutions, (22.5%) are satisfied.
Main Results of the study:
1 – Women in Al-Mawasi live in extreme poverty, which has the greatest impact on community concerns that are considered accessories by women. It has also been a major cause of decline in women's social role.
2 - Women look for a source of security and protection for their families and the basic needs to cover essential living costs.
3 - Women believe in the importance and necessity of education of both girls and boys. Yet, marriage is still more important than education. They have full conviction that marriage offers protection.
4 - Contrary to all expectation, women's situation got worsened after the Israeli withdrawal. They still feel that they are socially isolated from the rest of Rafah neighborhoods. Such areas have not been considered for improvements for years.
5 - Women in Al-Mawasi lived a very difficult life during the Israeli occupation. They still suffer from serious psychological effects, which need intervention from the institutions concerned about women and children.
6 - Women have suffered from many difficulties during the Israeli siege, where the deterioration of the psychological situation came in the first place. Other difficulties include family dispersion, displacement of homes, and drop out of education.
7 - Women stressed that the most difficult situation that affected them and is still engraved in the memories is the Israeli checkpoints. Each woman and child has experienced the scourge of these checkpoints.
8 - Women recognize the important role of civil and women's institutions working in their neighborhood. However, the current institutions are not meeting the real needs and ambitions of them. Therefore, women are demanding more projects to develop their potential due to the lack of the minimum services in the neighborhood.
9 - Courses of awareness and education are no of greatest interest to women. On the contrary, women demand income-generating projects that help me meet the basic needs of their families. They also demand intensive, professional awareness courses that help them provide the basic needs in the future.
Main Recommendations of the Study:
1 - Need to work on the psychological aspect of women in Al-Mawasi, taking into account their difficult living circumstances during the Israel occupation period. They stressed they have not overcome this difficult period yet; they need moral and psychological support. Therefore, it is better for institutions concerned to create orientation programs of long-term and intensive treatment to support women in Al- Mawasi.
2 - Need to raise women's knowledge of the importance of education and awareness, either through workshops, lectures or seminars at no cost. This needs to intensify efforts and work in cooperation with women, residents and institutions.
3 - Need to recognize and award women in Al-Mawasi for their persistence during the consecutive five years of blockade, facing Israeli occupation and militarization of the settlers. Women should be dealt as a group that has been suffering. They should not be viewed as inferior, and they should not be helped only by the distribution of coupons that are later exchanged for food items. In contrast, they should be dealt with as freedom fighters.
4 - Need to work to improve the income of households in Al- Mawasi through projects offered to this neighborhood. Since the basic needs are not available to them, they are not expected to interact and benefit by any means.
5 - Women in Al- Mawasi have real potential. Accordingly, women's institutions should support and provide them with moral services. These institutions are the link that women should take advantage of.
6 - Need to pay attention to the young generation of women who aspire for education. They should be supported to enable them support their neighborhood in the future.
7 - Need to document the stories and experiences of women in Al-Mawasi during the five-year Israeli blockade. This is to be a witness to the occupation's violence against women and children in this neighborhood.
8 - Need to work to integrate women in Al-Mawasi into joint programs and activities with women of Rafah city. This is to reduce the sense of social isolation.