Gaza’s working women earn 25 percent more, on average, than their male counterparts, according to a new report. Why are they still trapped under a ‘concrete’ ceiling?
When 53-year-old Clara Zetkin put forth the idea for an International Women’s Day, she was one of 100 or so delegates at the second International Conference of Working Women, its participating “unions, socialist parties, [and] working women’s clubs” gathered in Copenhagen, in the late summer of 1910, to call for universal suffrage and health insurance—including maternity leave for working mothers.
If their platform seemed radical for the time, it was no more so than Zetkin’s prior writings, many of which have been catalogued by the appropriately named Marxist Internet Archive. In these, the German socialist extols the “growing class struggle” from Egypt to India while condemning “the miseries and injustices capitalist exploitation and political rightlessness bestow on the working-class women” of these countries.
Given its origins, it’s not difficult to see how the founding themes of International Women’s Day would resonate with the working women of Gaza, their lives made “rightless” by what the Israeli advocacy organization Gisha, in a report published today, calls a “concrete ceiling.”
The report, according to a statement released by Gisha spokesperson Shai Grunberg, “focuses on women who managed to break through the glass ceiling only to be met by the concrete ceiling of the Israeli-imposed closure.” To illustrate the point, the authors profile six such women, each of whom works in “professional fields previously considered predominantly ‘masculine,’ such as banking, investment and management.”
Read the full report: The Concrete Ceiling
That they have broken through “the glass ceiling” so often restricting those professions to men is as much a testament to their perseverance and skill as it is a symptom of the Israeli closure, according to Gisha, which dubs itself the “legal center for freedom of movement.”
That’s because Israel’s policies, which severely restrict the movement of people and goods to and from the West Bank, have all but obliterated Gaza’s fishing and agriculture sectors, both of which have lost access to traditional Palestinian markets in the neighboring territory.
And with Gaza’s mostly male laborers unable to access work in Israel or the West Bank, they have turned to what’s left of these sectors, squeezing out the majority of women who used to work...Read More