No Woman Left Behind

The women in The Women's Group fitness class are working towards developing a more active and healthy lifestyle. In our first week as instructors for The Women’s Group at TYO, we were not sure what to expect! Empowerment is a visionary goal; how would we inspire self-confidence and change in women through fitness, nutrition and IT? The answer was easy: we didn’t need to. Women attend precisely because they have decided to make a change and become the driving forces of their lives, and of their community. Our own goal is thus of facilitation, providing tools and instruction; helping women enhance their confidence and realize their goals.

The short pre-course assessments for fitness and nutrition gave us an incisive insight into the type of information our women want from the group. Key nutritional knowledge such as the components and quantities of different foods for a healthy diet is in demand; the understanding of which produces a double benefit, assisting women to ensure not just their own healthy nutritional intake, but that of their family’s. Ideas and methods for increasing daily activity, made difficult and dangerous in densely populated areas of Palestine, are also an essential requirement.

The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) recently released a report indicating the female labor force participation rate is currently 17.3%, an improvement from the 15.5% in 2012. For TYO, this is not enough. TYO recognizes that for long-term economic and social growth to occur in the region, women’s confidence and technological skills must be invested in. Evidence from only our first week shows Palestinian women in particular are eager to learn. A small dose of confidence transforms not only the women’s lives, but those around them: their children, neighbors, husbands, siblings.

Since customs and traditions of Palestine are largely centered on male members of the family, women are commonly overlooked within the community. When the community you belong to doesn't recognize your value, how do you find value within yourself? A recent article by the Atlantic remarks, "evidence shows that women are less self-assured than men—and that to succeed, confidence matters as much as competence." In Nablus, this statement applies exponentially. TYO's Women's Group seeks to solve that problem by teaching women practical skills that will help them make themselves valuable members of society.

Among the most valuable skills we teach at TYO are Beginner and Advanced IT courses. Modern reliance on technology makes it increasingly difficult to achieve daily tasks without it. A lack of basic computer skills leaves disadvantaged women in Nablus feeling inconsequential and disconnected from both the world and their children. This sentiment was repeatedly echoed this week as pre-assessments were given to the women in the Beginner IT classes. "My kids, they love to use the computer. But they don't have the patience or time to teach me, and I think it's important to learn." The implication was clear. A proficiency in computers would provide them with a deeper connection to their children alongside a higher degree of respect.

During the assessments an overwhelming number of women were unfamiliar with seemingly simple tasks, such as turning on the computer or controlling a mouse. By the end of the class, they’d learned how to select an icon and open a program with their mouse. Despite the elementary nature of the task, we could tangibly see a world of difference in their demeanor. One woman, a grandmother in her 70’s, had a remarkable, unrivaled spark: “I want to learn everything. I want to learn how to play music, I want to learn how to research things I don’t know, I want to connect with people across the world. I don’t want to be left behind.”

-TYO Interns, Amanda, Neda, and Yvonne