by Emad Drimly
GAZA, March 7 (Xinhua) -- Um Murad, a Palestinian mother in the impoverished Gaza Strip, decided to look for a job to support her family after her husband, the family's sole breadwinner, lost his job due to the Israeli blockade.
The only job the 34-year-old mother found is to work as a servant for rich families in Gaza City. She washes dishes and cleans the houses to feed her children, instead of turning them into beggars.
Although she is pregnant, and is supposed to give birth in two months, the International Day of Woman, which falls on March 8, is nothing special for Um Murad, who decided to devote her time to work and work.
"I have never worked as a servant and never done this kind of jobs, although I worked in the farm of my father a long time ago before I got married," said the mother of two, adding that "I had no other choice after my husband lost his job over a year ago."
Um Murad, who declined to give her full name, is not the only mother in Gaza that struggles for feeding her family. Dozens of Palestinian women, mainly in the Gaza Strip, are obliged to support their families, following a 1,000-day of a tight Israeli blockade.
The Gaza Strip, which is inhabited by 1.5 million Palestinians, has been under the tight Israeli blockade since the Islamic Hamas movement seized control of the enclave by force and routed security forces loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
The majority of Palestinian women in Gaza shoulder the responsibility of taking care of their children and doing the housework as conservative society traditions oppose women going to work.
Islah Hassaneya, a Palestinian woman, who is active in one of Gaza Women's Associations, said that women in the Gaza Strip are representing 53 percent of the whole population, adding " unfortunately, our society is a non-feminine society, where women have to struggle for legitimate rights."
"Men in Gaza strongly believe that raising children and taking care of them are the responsibility of the mother and it is the best job in the Gaza Strip that is considered as a strict conservative society," said Hassaneya.
Um Murad said that at the beginning, "people around me, mainly my husband and my relatives, didn't accept the idea that I go to work as a servant at Gaza houses," adding "but the hard living conditions had obliged me to do this kind of a job."
"I support my husband and my children. What's wrong with this?" said Um Murad in agony.
Zeinab al-Ghuneimi, a female advocate and chairman of the Palestinian Center for Defending Women, said "women in Gaza are badly treated by men, in a traditional society like Gaza and amid hard living conditions as a result of an unfair Israeli blockade."
Official figures, conducted by Gaza women organizations, revealed that the women participation in the labor force reached 11.6 percent in 2007 in the Gaza Strip, where the families fed solely by women are only 8 percent.
Donia al-Amal Ismail, a Palestinian woman activist, revealed that there are so many women who face violations of their rights due to the poverty in the Gaza Strip, as well as the deterioration in the health and education conditions.
"Under such circumstances, many women in Gaza spend most of their time looking for a job or another source for living," Ismail said, adding that "this had imposed limits on the women in Gaza to improve their talents and earn a proper education."
"Women in Gaza are practicing different kinds of jobs without finding any legal body that gives them guarantees," he said, adding that the Israeli war on the Gaza Strip last winter increased the women's suffering.
Um Murad lives in a makeshift made of wood and a metal ceiling. Illegally built on a governmental property, her house has no electricity, water or even furniture, except some mattresses and a few old broken plastic chairs. She said "we suffer a lot in winter. "
Um Murad has two children, who were obliged to leave their schools two years ago. She said that she tried to bring her two sons back to school, but the schools refused to accept them citing that they had passed the legal age.
"My only dream is to see my children going to school, my husband having a job and we can go one night to one of Gaza restaurants and have dinner there. But unfortunately, it seems that this dream is not going to come true amid the hard living conditions," said Um Murad. (Saud Abu Ramadan also contributed to the story.)