Report – Condemned to Unemployment: East Jerusalem Women Struggle for Integration into the Labor Market

In Conclusion

Improving the status of Palestinian women, especially in the labor market, is at the center of WAC-MAAN’s work.

In January 2015, responding to the horrific rate of poverty in EJ, particularly the living conditions of women, we initiated a significant change at our EJ branch. We worked hard to make our activities and capacities more readily accessible to EJ women, especially to the majority who have not had basic education.

We took especial note of the fact that among 84,500 unemployed EJ women, only 3000 demand jobs and/or income support from the EB. We interpreted this as a sign of the majority’s deep alienation from the social safety net and its obliviousness to opportunities for exiting the cycle of poverty and unemployment. We have concluded that the empowerment of these women, starting with an awareness of their rights, is urgently needed, along with a drive to improve employment possibilities.

To this end we have dedicated many hours of field work among the unemployed, especially the jobseekers at the EB; we have closely studied their conditions; we have worked to make the women aware of their rights to fair employment, both at the EB and the National Insurance Institute; we have supplied the women with basic knowledge on using public transport and more.

At the heart of this change we have placed the recruitment and training of “Rights Propagators,” female volunteers from among the jobseekers themselves. They are undergoing empowerment, learning their rights as well as factual data on the broader socioeconomic situation in EJ. They receive grounding in labor law and in how to obtaining those rights from the authorities and the employers. These women become agents of change, spreading the knowledge to their peers.

This process has brought about a dramatic rise in the number of EJ women who have become WAC members. We see similarities in the development and success of the Rian Center and the creation of other EJ women’s groups over the last few years.  Among the most oppressed women in EJ there are great powers for change. If these powers could be harnessed to a structural improvement in their educational and employment circumstances, the result could be a revolutionary change.

Progress toward such change depends on equal treatment of EJ men and women. Equality would have to include a significant rise in facilities for pre-schoolers as well as in the rest of the educational system.

As for the present situation, it does no good to channel women into an abusive labor market. This only leads to frustration, and in any case it does not improve the situation of the women or their families. A significant change can only come about with an increase in chances for fair employment.

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אודות Wac-Maan