Women in Gaza move forward with their heads held high despite many difficulties confronting them, living their lives with a positive attitude

[Original by Yoriko YAMAMURA, Palestine Project (July 30, 2019); Translated by M. Kanai/M. Hajjaj]

Scorching hot summer has started in Gaza, during daytime people will be soaked in perspiration if they merely walk down the streets. In Jerusalem, I can walk around wearing short sleeves. However, in Gaza it is considered inappropriate as is customary for women to show their skin in public places, so that I also cover up myself with a thin long-sleeve shirt when I go to work. In this report, I would like to share with you a story about Palestinian women living in Gaza.

Samira is always busy and active in devoting herself to protecting the health of mothers and children in refugee camps in Gaza.

Due to stress arising from the blockade, considerably high ratio of men resorts to domestic violence against women, consequently leaving many women forced to live in a harsh situation. To date, through the JVC activities, I have met various women in Gaza: staff of our partner organization, beneficiaries of our activities, a woman who burst into the office of our partner organization for help, or sisters of my friends. Each time when I encounter such a woman, I feel deep despair as being a woman myself over the unfair state under which they are placed in this part of the world. Today, I would like to introduce a woman to you. She is a member of our partner organization, who is always moving forward conquering the hardship.

Samira (assumed name) decided to leave home where she lived with her husband and children about a year ago. It was because she could not stand the husband’s violence any longer and there was no other way but to leave home. It was fortunate for her to have a job and her parents’ home to go back, but the most difficult part was to be separated from her four dearest children. Even now, she can get in contact with her children frequently, but she is allowed to meet them only once a year. She left all her belongings behind at home where she used to live with her husband and the children. All the money she saved over the past 11 working years was taken by her husband. Nonetheless, she feels better now that she has gained her emotional freedom by leaving her husband. She hears on the grapevine that her husband is using her savings for his new girlfriend.

Even when faced with a situation that appears unreasonable, Samira never loses her self-respect nor loses oneself in despair. Instead, she cares about other people, endeavors for self-development and lives her life in such a way as to give encouragement to other women fulfilling the responsibilities required of her. She always lives in a camp for refugees and works for those women who are in a more difficult situation than herself. She says that she tries not to talk about her own situation as much as possible. She says: “Women in Gaza already have heard about enough painful experiences of other people. I do not want them to feel reserved due to my own experiences when I work for them. I wish to be always vigorous and happy in front of those women.”

Samira says she has always found pleasure and joy of living when she can make any help to other people. She was brought up in a poor family but whatever her situation was, she always found a ray of hope and seized opportunities for success. When she had an interview with a JVC’s partner organization and was recruited at the age of 19, her father was ill in bed. He received a phone call from a representative of the organization about her acceptance and was asked how he brought up a daughter who was so bright with a fine character. It was the first any time in her life to see her father shed tears of happiness. Shortly after this incident, her father passed away.

Samira said to me with a smile: “I have just gone back to square one again. I will start all over from scratch.” I could not think of proper words to give her and I wondered if I was worthy to do so at all because there was no comparison of the life experience between Samira and myself. Although she is always simply dressed wearing jeans, she emanates an aura of generosity and noble spirit that shows beauty from within which no rich woman dressed up with luxury brands can be nowhere near. It is extremely difficult for anyone to live in Gaza always with hope. She keeps herself busy attending her work and says: “I cannot afford to become downhearted. It has never been an option for me. There are so many things I have to get done for the community.”

Samira faced the death of many people close to her and unreasonable reality of various kinds. It was recently found out that a volunteer woman has cancer with a limited life expectancy. She lives in the community which Samira has been guiding and helping with utmost efforts. She has been separated from her husband due to the violence and raised three children under circumstances where there was no place to live or a job to survive. Now, she is living the remaining days of her life with three children keeping herself together.

A visit to Gaza always makes me think about the meaning of life there. I have access to many more things than the Palestinian women, but I am wondering if I use the opportunities which are given to me without wasting time and if my way of living is worthy of their confidence and trust. However rich one may be with power and status, such acquisitions are no match for the greatness and preciousness of Palestinian women as a human being. We are always enchanted by their resilience, warmth, and strength and simply learn a lot of things from them.

A scene from the surrounding area of a refugee camp. A lot of watermelons are sold now.

“When you stay positive, your immunity will be boosted. Allah also teaches us to be positive and happy all the time. It’s up to you if you want to stay positive or negative”, as she said when we were driving under the blue skies to our operation site. When I am faced with difficult and tough times, I will try to remember these words.

Share This: