Palestinian woman inspects greenhouse plants

Agricultural Sheroes – The hidden stories of Palestinian Women

Women's Economic Empowerment

Palestinian woman inspects greenhouse plants
Shahd Al-Sharif works at her greenhouse in the city of Hebron. Photo Credit: Samar Hazboun/Oxfam 2021.

The agriculture sector in the Occupied Palestinian Territory is debilitated by multifaceted structural challenges. However, within the sector itself, women face another layer of challenges arising from the gender roles and responsibilities that are strongly defined by social norms. The gender division of labour in the agriculture sector depends upon the specific agricultural commodity and the various stages of the value chain. 

3 Palestinian women farmers look out on their land
Nadine Abu Al Rok, Aseel Al Najar and Ghayda Qudih working on the land in Khuza, Khan Younis. Photo Credit: Sanad Abu Latifa/Oxfam 2021.

The level of engagement of men and women vary in different aspects of the value chain, for example there is limited women’s participation in the input supply. Whereas, women’s participation in the agriculture sector is highly concentrated at the early stages of the value chain such as labouring on the land, which is characterised by low pay and limited decision making. Informal social norms, in particular, gender differences about the definition and perceptions of women’s work and men’s work play a strong role in determining women’s position and power in the agriculture sector.  

Woman holds can of pickles at the factory
Jinan Hamashi works at the pickle factory in Kafradan on February 22, 2021. Suhaib Jarrar / Oxfam 2021.

For example, the definition of “farmer” particularly from the perspectives of the agriculture market actors has highlighted that some organisations define “farmer” as the one who owns and manages the farm or land. This narrow definition eliminates many female workers within the agriculture sector from being considered farmers. Women are also disproportionately responsible for unpaid domestic work and family duties, which limits their time and energy to invest in small-scale enterprise development or wage employment.  

Two women drinking tea on their farmland.
Soad Al-Astal and Sobhia Al-Astal drinking tea in Khan Younis, Gaza Strip. Photo Credit: Sanad Abu Latifa/Oxfam 2021.

All these factors limit the recognition, the value, and the visibility of women’s contribution to the agriculture sector.The following  series of case studies makes these stories visible: sharing women’s valuable contributions to the agriculture sector at the farm, factory, and entrepreneurial levels.  

First, we meet the Green Girls, Nadine, Aseel and Ghayd, from Khuza in Khan Younia, who leased land, developed and fundraised for their own pea agribusiness leveraging social media. Next, we meet Jenan Hamashi from Kufr Dan in North West Jenin in the Occupied West Bank, a hardworking and respected shareholder in her local pickling factory. Our third story comes from Shahd in Hebron, a recent graduate, who was struggling for work, but harnessed her love of house plants and her access to her parents garden, into a flourishing greenhouse business. And finally, we hear from Soad and Sobhia, from near Khan Younis, two pioneering farmers who first brought and planted grape seedlings in the Gaza Strip, reminiscing and reflecting about how agriculture has changed in their long agricultural careers, impacted by blockade restrictions and climate change.  

Author
Asmaa AbuMezied

Asmaa AbuMezied

Asmaa is Oxfam’s Women Economic Empowerment Coordinator in Gaza with expertise in the intersectionality of gender, youth with development and economy in protracted conflict contexts.