Gazan women produce dates products to make money
Amira Ibrahim, from Deir al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip, gathers with six of her neighbours in the early hours of the morning to pick a considerable amount of dates that she then sells in the local markets.
The women spend at least twelve hours a day sorting out the dates by cleaning them and then preparing them for manufacturing.
The 45-year-old mother of eight told The New Arab that during the dates season most non-educated women of the Strip become the only breadwinners of their families.
Each woman produces about 900 kg of pressed dates. Two-thirds of that amount is sold to local markets, the rest is usually used in traditional cake making. They are also used to produce jam, juice and many other products.
"Personally, I earn about $400 during the season. To put that in proportion, I earn about $80 a month during the rest of the year," the woman said, adding that it is enough to keep her family afloat amid the economic crisis.
About 85% of Gazans have been pushed into poverty with an individual income of only $2 per day. Currently, 300,000 people are unemployed in the coastal enclave
Sara Salama, Amira's neighbour and one of her workmates, joined her teamwork six years ago when her husband passed away and left her with five children without any breadwinner.
To avoid sinking into poverty, the woman decided to take matters into her own hands and pursue work in various agricultural projects, including picking dates.
"It is hard to become the only breadwinner of a family with children," the 36-year-old complained, saying what made matters worse was that she couldn't find a job despite her business administration education.
Dates season has solved that problem for her. "Whether they are educated or not, women can adapt to the reality by finding alternatives that can prevent them from poverty and deprivation. Most Palestinian women, especially in the coastal enclave, can make and prepare hand-made dates' products. And this way, they can turn their hobby into a profitable business," she explained as she flashed a smile.
Apart from making some money, Amira and Sara are also aiming to revive Palestinian folkloric songs, which have become their source of strength and a way to cope with Israel's occupation of their lands.
Israel has been imposing a tight blockade on the Gaza Strip since Hamas forcibly seized control of the enclave in the summer of 2007 from the security forces of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
As a result, about 85 percent of Gazans have been pushed into poverty with an individual income of only $2 per day. Currently, 300,000 people are unemployed in the coastal enclave, according to data issued by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS).
Helping around 40 women from the Khan Younis city, the Maan Development Center has funded a local project for the second year in a row encouraging those from poor households to make products from dates and sell them in the local markets.
Hundreds of women eagerly await the dates' season every year to earn money and support their families even though they know that the profits would be low and that they are only limited to several months
Each woman earns about $30 a day, according to Hiba al-Falit, the supervisor of the project. She said that because of the dire economic situation in the coastal enclave, such sums of money could be enough for poor women who are struggling to feed their children.
She added that hundreds of women eagerly await the dates' season every year to earn money and support their families even though they know that the profits would be low and that they are only limited to several months.
Hasnah Qudaih from the Khan Younis city in the southern Gaza Strip started working in hand-made agriculture products in 2008 when she lost all her family members in the 2008 Israeli war.
The 60-year-old tells The New Arab that since then she has been forced to earn money by herself and that has kept her alive, giving her an escape route to forget all her personal catastrophe.
Meanwhile, Samih Qudaih, a local coordinator from the Maan center, says his team came up with the idea of launching the initiative after studying the local market conditions.
"Our markets depend on imports, including dates. In the past year, we have targeted women based in remote areas, but currently, we are targeting more women even if they live in cities," Samih explained.
Sally Ibrahim is a Palestinian reporter with The New Arab based in the Gaza Strip