The lack of job opportunities in the Gaza Strip drives Palestinian women graduates to work on the land. This is both a sign of desperation due to Israeli blockade but also a sign of resistance – we will never surrender!
The ‘agriculture project’ initiative by graduates Ghaida Qudaih, Aseel al-Najjar and Nadin Abu Rook is to address the absence of job market due to the Israeli blockade now in its 14th year. The Gaza Strip suffers from many crises including 46 percent unemployment rate, considered the highest in the world. Amongst youth, of 20 to 29 age, the unemployment is 72 percent. With unemployment comes poverty and the poverty rate in the Gaza Strip rose to 53 percent according to the latest official statistics issued by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistic.
It is in this dire background that the three young ladies sought to defy the blockade and unemployment. Qudaih says, “the project is to address the high unemployment and a means of survival”. However, survival comes at a very high danger to personal life. Without much financial assistance the ladies have been forced to lease land just 500 meters from the Israeli Wall. While this land is cheaper to hire the risk to their lives from routine Israeli firing is ever present. But financial constrains and the desperation caused by the blockade have left them with no options. Without any financial assets, Al-Najjar says, “We are waiting for the first crop of peas to be harvested in order to pay off the debts”.
Despite the great expectations and hopes from the initiative, the ladies are in a constant fear. They are terrified Israel, that deliberately sprays toxic materials on agricultural lands near the borders and routinely carry out incursions with tanks will destroy their hard labor. The predicament of these three is a microcosm reflection of life under blockade in the Gaza Strip.