3 May 2012, Gaza - More than a third of women living in the Gaza Strip are exposed to physical abuse in their homes, according to a 2011 violence survey by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics. Almost 15 per cent are exposed to sexual abuse, and a staggering three-quarters experience psychological abuse.
These figures highlight a growing concern throughout Gaza, where the Israeli blockade has halted imports and cut jobs, destabilising the local economy and increasing poverty. As Gazans continue to survive with less - earning lower salaries and living in crowded housing - the effects on families include an increase in domestic violence.
With the majority of Gazan women being Palestine refugees, UNRWA has taken action to address their safety through education and support for women, men, and the entire family.
Preventing domestic violence before it happens
Working in partnership with the Women’s Affairs Centre (WAC), UNRWA’s Gender Initiative launched a project in the Gaza Strip to prevent and respond to domestic violence.
Through discussion groups, forums, and workshops, the project provides an opportunity to talk about violence, human rights, and gender roles – within the family and in the community as a whole.
“It affects so many families”, said one participant in Beit Hanoun. “Women and men in Gaza need awareness on both prevention and protection from domestic violence.”
Supporting the survivors, empowering communities
In addition to education, the project includes practical advice to address domestic violence when the problem arises. Participants learn how to deal with violence within the family and where to turn when support is needed. UNRWA’s relief and social services programme, for example, assists Palestine refugee women facing violence at home.
“I decided to participate to benefit from the experience of others”, said one participant in Beach Camp.
By bringing refugee women together in a safe and secure environment, the project also allows them to establish links with each other, creating a support network throughout the community that can better respond to domestic violence as a societal problem.
Since 2008, the project has reached over 2,500 Palestine refugees, with 700 more women and men to be reached over the next few months.