Reinforcement of the Institutional Capacities

Training for Palestinian Women with low Income

Tuesday 27 January 2004, by Alternatives


In 1999 and 2000, official representatives of the Ministry of Social Services and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) have elaborated a training project and a community development, intended for underprivileged women, and which objective is to allow them to get better incomes, to improve their situation. In order to implement this project, it has been decided to set up two new community centres in two refugees’ camps in the Gaza Strip, more precisely in Jabalia and Nuseirat (see the map).

Unfortunately, during the following period, the political and economic situation has been seriously deteriorated on the field. A peaceful settlement of the conflict had no effect and a second Intifada has begun. The new Israeli government has adopted a hard line, attacks and counter-attacks of Palestinians are intensified, and Israel has occupied again the territories of Palestine. The destruction and the death have become common facts. Today, the peace process has not still really restarted, but the poverty and the unemployment however increased a lot.

However, two missions, carried on the field in June and November 2001, have confirmed the viability of the project and the necessity of starting the action, while readapting the objectives of the initial project.

In order to ensure the viability of both community centres, which would be used for the training, first a substantial assistance should be brought to the Ministry itself, which did not have the institutional capacities allowing him to equip adequately the centres and to manage the training programs intended for members of the communities. So the CIDA has adopted an interactive approach and has established an agreement with the Ministry, in order to meet the objectives and the results expected from the project.

Alternatives, in collaboration with the World University Service of Canada (WUSC), signed an agreement with the CIDA in 2001, in order to realize the project of institutional reinforcement of the Palestinian Ministry of Social Services, in the setting up of two community centres of training, intended for women with low income.

First the project aim at women in towns and refugees camps in Gaza, which include teenagers (girl), young girls who wee forcing to leave school, single mothers, widows and displaced women. It’s about increasing women financial capacities, but also reducing the discriminatory gap, which exists between women and men.


Initially, the project aimed at increasing the capacities of women with low incomes and refugee women, to become workers with higher incomes. This aim had been decided with the Palestinian of Social Services and the CIDA, at the time of the elaboration of the project in 2000.The goal of the project has been revised, and aims from now on at allowing women with low income and their families to improve their economic conditions and to increase their standard of living.

The initial goal of the project was the creation of more opportunities to develop the autonomy of more vulnerable women and their families, through training activities and other development activities, and to reinforce the capacity of the Ministry of Social Services to manage those initiatives. The goal of the so revised project, is to create new facilities and opportunities for poor women and their families, by offering them training services in two community centres in Gaza, and to reinforce the capacity of the Ministry of Social Services to manage those services and training programs.

The project is now based on three different components. Each one respects principles as established by the project authorities. Those three are:

1- The setting up of two community centres, offering training services to women (component 100)
2- The development of technical and personal training programs, intended for Palestinian women (component 200)
3- The reinforcement of institutional capacities (component 300).

The Social and Economic Situation in Gaza

The Gaza Strip has a population of about 1,400,000 inhabitants, from which 75% are refugees of 1948. The Palestinian population in Gaza is concentrated on around 60% of a territory of 365 km2, particularly in overpopulated areas, where the density of the population reaches 50,000 inhabitants/km2, like in the camps of Jabalia or Nuseirat. The rest of the territory is occupied by 18 colonies, making the census of about 8,000 settlers, and constitutes “the perimeter of safety” under military control. At any moment, the army can make incursions in territories theoretically under Palestinian authority control. Regularly, the army crosses the Gaza Strip in four areas with its tanks, and prevent all passage across the different areas. With the cordon operation of Gaza and the limitation of thousands of Palestinian workers in Israel, all economic development perspectives are so blocked. The entry of products from the West Bank is an exception and most of available products come almost systematically from Israel because of financial and administrative restraints imposed by Israeli customs.

According to the last data of the Un Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), 80% of the population live under the poverty line. The unemployment rate exceeds 60% in Gaza. The inflows from the Palestinian Diaspora are reduced, which results in increasing the dependence of the population towards the UNRWA.

Since march 2004, other organizations of the United Nations, such as UNRWA, World Food Programme, UNICEF, UNDP, WHO, UN Office for the Coordination of the Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and UN Special Co-ordinator’s Office (UNSCO) are facing obstacles to come in Gaza. These organizations announced that from April 1st, 2004, they would stop their humanitarian action. This situation might trigger off a humanitarian disaster in Gaza, which by the way does not have an industrial or even farming production base to afford its own subsistence.

Chronology of the Activities

Because of the occupation and the difficult situation on the field, the project is now really late. During the year of 2002, the project finalized the period of establishment and of preparation.

During this period, many tasks and activities were realized: the secretariat of the project and a way office were settled d in Gaza and Ramallah, and employees were selected. A field trip, in which some project officers took part, was organized with community groups and women centres in Canada. Workshops, intended for employees working on the project, were also presented. Besides, consultants wee hired, a group of local experts was meeting in order to determine needs and opportunities of training, and finally documents establishing the procedure, the follow-up actions and the assessment mechanisms of the project were produced.

Between April 2003 and March 2004, the project completed its first year of activities.

Most of the results, reached during this period, belong to the component 100, this to say the setting up of two communities centres in Jabalia and Nuseirat. The beginning of the activities was initiated from many consultations, led by the coordination team of the project and suggestion from the Palestinian community (individuals and institutions). Visits on the field, questionnaires, workshops and meetings with institutions located near the two centres, focus groups, in which potential recipients, volunteers and representatives of the Ministry of Social Services participated to support centres activities.

Between April and December 2003, the following activities were organized:
 Homework help service for children;
 Studies help for women (preparation for getting the high school diploma);
 Literature lessons for women
 English lessons
 Summer activities (holiday camps)
 Medical services (consciousness-raising workshops);
 Training workshops (legal stakes, conjugal violence, self-esteem)
 Women’s club in Jabalia (including training in handicraft production)
 Rescuer lessons for women

From January to March 2004, most of the activities previously mentioned have been pursued with the added following activities:
 Winter camps for women and children (at the time of holidays between both school terms);
 Workshop on communication skills for women.

From April to December 2003, a total of 2,320 people enjoyed these activities proposed in both centres. From this number, 2,320 were women (57%) and 1,335 were less than 25 years old and less (58%). From January to February 2004, a total of 189 people enjoyed the activities proposed in both centres. From this number, 647 were women (80%).

If in 2003, women were generally under-represented in the activities, this weakness has been gradually corrected; adjustments were made, as we can observe in the results from January to February 2004.

The expected results for the active participation of the community in centres are also impressive, particularly:
 The number of volunteers, who are involved and the quality of their participation;
 The cooperation of local institutions (NGO, and governmental organizations).

Indeed, more than 100 volunteers, the majority are women, are involved at different levels in the activities f both centres. From this number around 35 were active volunteers. Nine volunteers, who were graduated from university, and involved in the homework help service for children program, have found a permanent job after their experience with the project.

More than 30 institutions (NGO, governmental organizations) have worked with centres at the level of the organization of the activities. Two local branches of the Palestinian Ministry of social Services (regions of the North and the centre) have worked with both centres on the development of a database of the recipients of the Ministry and on the planning of centres activities. All these collaborators and the recipients of centres as well have helped the coordinators of the centres in the setting up of activities program.

Women Club

The creation of the women’s club of the centre of Jabalia is an initiative, which has achieved a great success, and will be used again in the centre of Nuseirat (by respecting features and specific needs of the community of Nuseirat). Results of the evaluation of the activities of last year show that the omen club in Jabalia has been a positive experience for women of the community. The creation of the Women club was the work of a jobless woman, but rather active within her community. She approached the coordinator of the centre in April 2003, for asking him to get access to a room where she could meet other women every week, discuss on their wishes, share their concerns and organize activities together, without costing anything to the centre. Project officers took this idea positively, because it was an initiative directly from a member of the community. From that moment, a group of seven women began to meet every week. After the evaluation of their needs, the initiator of the project started a workshop on handicraft training (ceramics and painting). Then, she has proposed workshops on self-esteem training. Progressively, other women took part to the new club. The Ministry of Social Services referred some of them as “difficult cases”. Women, who, at the beginning had problems of self-confidence, found themselves transformed after during their participation to the Club. These women began to more express themselves, to feel happier and to interact with the society. Today the Women Club of Jabalia counts 38 members. It is now a cultural and community area, gathering women of the community of Jabalia, from different backgrounds. Members have created committees (health, social, cultural) with the goal, n a long term, to establish a feminist group, which will represent the centre at a superior level, and will lobby for its social change. Moreover, the management of the centre meets the Club frequently to evaluate members’ activities and needs.

The project will continue to support this initiative in order to develop the programming of the Club, but also other programs, which will come from ideas proposed by women themselves.

Until now, the setting up of the Club is one of the greatest accomplishments of the project. In order to be able to continue to develop the programming, it was essential to define a mission of the Club and to find its place inside the program of the Centre, to allocate necessary resources. A meeting with members of the project was organized in last February, at the time of a mission on the field. The rationale of the Club, its mission, its operating procedure and its activities were elaborated from the experience of last year in the Centre of Jabalia. Results of this meeting are:


1- The Club is a tool, intended for the women empowerment, and which is used to end women’s isolation. This is a way through which women can achieve their potential and go forward.
2- The Club meets the needs of participant, who suffer from a lack of self-confidence and social interaction.
3- The Club offers a social and community area to women, and the handicraft production is not used to get some benefits, but only to entertain.
4- The Club is a body that acts as a consultant with the management of the Centre, by proposing ideas for the development and the improvement activities programs of the centre.
5- In a long term, the Club could play a role of lobbying as a member of an organization network of Palestinian women to promote the woman’s status and best conditions of living. The Club could represent the Centre in the public sphere, by working in partnership for a social change.

Operating procedure:

Up to date, the Club has worked informally, without particular resource, that’s why it is now necessary to establish a clearer structure:

1- A board of directors will be made by the election of eleven members.
2- A coordinator will be assigned and will be responsible for coordinating activities under the supervision of the coordinator of the Centre.
3- Rules and principles of the Club will be clearly defined.
4- Minutes of meetings will be given to the management of the Centre.
5- A formal membership will be formed for a yearlong: members will have some advantages, like free services from other institutions.
6- Resources, like desk, furniture, equipment and material will be provided.


1- Weekly meetings to hold informal discussions about personal issues, allowing women to share their experiences and to find solutions together, which could lead some of them to go on therapy if they need it.
2- Leisure, like collective cooking and handicraft production, non-profit-making activities. However, some talented women could be referred to the technical training program, or she would receive a more formal training in handicraft production and a support from the coordinator of the Centre if they wanted to start their own companies.
3- Consciousness-raising and development of skills workshops (leadership, decision-making, protection of basic rights etc). This activity could be integrated to the consciousness-raising and empowerment program of the Centre, or be specifically defined from the needs of members of the Centre.
4- Cultural visits and entertainment activities (picnics, master pieces exhibition etc).
5- Networking with other women’s organizations.

This project is possible thanks to the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and the World University Service of Canada (WUSC).

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