For years, the United States was the largest aid donor to Palestinians. With funding to health, education and sanitation programs brought to a sudden halt, it’s women and girls who are hit the hardest.
When Nawal’s husband had to stop working two years ago due to severe stomach pains, she became the family’s primary provider. Nawal, who asked to use only her first name, lives with her seven children in Dheisheh refugee camp, near Bethlehem. Nawal used to be eligible for stipends from UNRWA that would help her cover the family’s medical costs, but she was recently told this assistance is no longer available.
Zahya Al Mubasher is a widow fighting cancer in Gaza. At 61, she is still the provider for 17 of her children, grandchildren and siblings. She makes a living by growing tomatoes in a backyard greenhouse that was funded by USAID, a U.S government agency responsible for administering civilian foreign aid and development assistance.
Nawal and Zahya are only two of thousands of Palestinian women who are directly affected by the Trump administration’s decision to dry up aid funding to Palestinians. The administration most recently shut down USAID’s mission in the West Bank and Gaza, while cutting more than half a billion dollars in funding to Palestinian projects in 2018. Critics say it is just the latest attempt to blackmail the Palestinian Authority into a peace agreement with Israel.
When society or institutions start to break down because of lack of investment, women are even further burdened by the domestic responsibilities they are traditionally associated with, says Susan Markham, USAID’s former senior coordinator for gender equality and women’s empowerment. Managing time between professional responsibilities and “housework,” she adds, becomes an even greater challenge. “It’s something that is not measured oftentimes, but has a real impact on everyday women’s lives,” she says.
The effects of such a break down on women are twofold: gender-focused programs funded by the U.S. have now been scrapped, reducing the number of initiatives that focus exclusively on promoting women’s rights and opportunities, while larger infrastructure-related projects — such as in health and sanitation — remain unfinished. This can have a detrimental impact on the roles of women and girls in society.
Hundreds of thousands of dollars in U.S. aid went toward Palestinian women’s rights advocacy programs over the past several years. Among the aid recipients is Kayan, a feminist organization protecting the rights and...Read More