A Woman's World: Women's Group Fitness at TYO

The Women's Group gets ready for a morning workout. A key component of TYO’s work is The Women’s Group (TWG). As part of The Women's Empowerment Programs, TWG embodies TYO's multigenerational approach by supporting Nabulsi mothers ranging in age from their early twenties to their late sixties.  Women participate in interactive seminars facilitating dialogue on a range of contemporary community and women's interest topics.  To complement these sessions, TYO offers sewing and IT classes, and the international interns lead weekly fitness classes, which incorporate nutrition and lifestyle advice. Interns have been delighted by how enthusiastic and spirited the ladies are, particularly their exuberant appetite for Zumba!  A mere two weeks since the session started, women are mirroring each move intently, becoming visibly less self-conscious and more relaxed.

Ice-breaker discussions in our first classes revealed that many women recognize the need to lose weight and tone their bodies, with a considerable proportion reporting that they suffer from diabetes.  Correspondingly, UNRWA has in the past week issued a press release, highlighting the unacceptable prevalence of diabetes found in a 2012 clinical audit report of Palestinian refugees.  Ninety percent of cases are reported to affect overweight and obese patients.  Discussions about nutrition and lifestyle are a valuable platform for cross-cultural exchange and information sharing, helping women to augment their understanding of health and fitness and thus to make more informed choices in their lives.

The Women's Group fitness classes are also an instrumental opportunity for women to enjoy each other's company, to relax and to focus on themselves, in a space that blends privacy with community.  These sorts of opportunities can be scarce; women's accounts of their daily routines generally reflect the assertions made in a 2013 resolution from the UN's Economic and Social Council, that the increasingly difficult socioeconomic conditions of Palestinian women are prohibitive to self-reliance.  Many of the women do not allocate time during the day to psychological well-being and self-reflection.  Each class therefore features simple relaxation techniques, such as yoga, which, reports the Wall Street Journal has yielded positive results not only from females in Ramallah, in the West Bank, but amongst women exposed to major life stressors in Ethiopia and Rwanda. To help women derive sustainable benefits from TYO's fitness classes, they are encouraged to put what they have learned into practice at home, and every woman is encouraged to spend a moment, if only five minutes, each day thinking about her own needs.


-TYO Interns, Laura, Katherine, and Mariella