Fighting unemployment and changing cultural norms
International Women's Day is nearly upon us, so this is a good time to bring attention to women's rights as they pertain to equal access to jobs and freedom from discrimination on the basis of gender. The Washington Post recently released a map illustrating women's participation in the labor market around the world, and it's no surprise that the MENA region ranks amongst the worst in the world for women's participation. Given the concerning state of women's involvement, TYO places heavy emphasis on empowering young women and girls to prepare them with the skills needed to succeed in the workplace. The report cited several reasons for such low female participation, all of which TYO actively seeks to address through its comprehensive youth programming.
• Effects of cultural norms on economic output. Palestine, and Nablus particularly, is a very traditional society in which culture dictates nearly every aspect of a woman's life- she dresses the way the culture demands and is often pressured to occupy her time the way culture dictates. With so many decisions being out of her control, it follows that she often has little control over career/job choices. Through the Youth Service Learning program at TYO, young women are empowered to become leaders in their classes and are given real responsibilities- which is the first stepping-stone to giving them the confidence needed to stand-up in face the of the oppressive culture and make her own decisions for employment.
TYO works with 38 female graduate and undergraduate students in the STEP! program to be more empowered towards being more aware of the importance of being independent as woman. Additionally, female volunteers are work in teams that include both women and men, helping to create a sense of equity and improved communication between the genders. This makes them feel more important in the community and more empowered.
• Discrimination against women effects participation. There is a hidden discrimination against women in the community that they are not equal to men. In Palestine, women don't get high positions because men are expected to be better in leadership and management. TYO mixes boys and girls together where they both are equal in terms of the skills they receive, the responsibilities they have, the roles they assume, and they way they are being trained and evaluated. Consequently women at TYO feel more empowered and equal to men. This causes women to be more motivated and aware of their right to work and get an opportunity.
It's not easy to fight one's own culture, but the youth generation in Palestine are fighting hard for equal rights, better opportunities, and to change the map- to make the MENA region an example for women's inclusion.
This program - as part of Student Training and Employment Program (STEP!) - is sponsored in part by the Abdul Hamid Shoman Foundation.
- Ruba Hayfayda, Volunteer Coordinator