Women’s Role in the Palestinian Informal Economy: Reality…Challenges

The participants stressed the significance of intensifying the mechanisms of supervision and inspection of workplaces to prevent the exploitation of women and violation of their labor rights. 

THE EXPLOITATION OF WOMEN IN THE INFORMAL ECONOMY

The Palestinian Association for Empowerment and Local Development- REFORM, implemented a public discussion session with the participation of Dr. Azmi Abdul Rahman, a Spokesperson and the Director General of Policies at the Ministry of National Economy, Ms. Angham Saif, the Legal Advisor at the Ministry of Labor, and a number of young men and women who are active within the “Fostering Social inclusion and gender equality within Palestinian society through tackling gender stereotypes” project. The aim of the public discussion is to discuss the reality of the participation of Palestinian women in the informal economy along with the challenges they face in the absence of opportunities, the laws governing their presence in the Palestinian labor market, and the reality of exploitation and discrimination from a gender perspective.
The Facilitator, Mr. Nabil Dweikat, presented a brief and general idea about the stereotype towards women and men, which is based on discrimination against women and limiting their social participation to the reproductive and housework role that are associated with the private family space. On the other hand, the stereotypical role of men is devoted to participation in all aspects of society’s political, economic, and cultural life in the public space. This stereotypical role of women and men has been enshrined in traditional social culture through education and has been portrayed through reducing women’s participation in the Palestinian national economy.

WOMEN’S LOW PARTICIPATION RATE IN THE INFORMAL SECTOR

Dr. Azmi prepared a paper regarding women’s work in the informal sector, referring to the Oslo Convention and the Paris Economic Protocol and how it affected the Palestinian economy. He stated that the participation of women in economic life does not exceed 18%, while the number of university graduates is about 44 thousand graduates annually, of which 60% are females, the general unemployment rate is about 31%, about 46% are females, and 21% are males, while unemployment among young graduates, 64% are females and 33% are males.

THE LABOR LAW VERSUS ITS ENFORCEMENT

Moreover, Ms. Angham Saif, explained how the Ministry of Labor is monitoring and following-up with the application of the Labor Law, while encouraging women to raise awareness and education of their rights, as stipulated in the Labor Law, to claim them. She pointed out that the Labor Law highlighted a special clause under the name, “Special Provisions for the Work of Women,” that sets some conditions for women who work, especially in dangerous professions; however, in reality, women are subjected to violations regarding their wages and working hours. For example, women are denied access to rights provided by law, such as the right to breastfeed after childbirth. Also, married women are discriminated against in terms of poor employment opportunities because of employers’ fear that she may have children and thus, claim her right to maternity leave. This reduces women’s access to jobs compared to males. Ms. Saif added that women lack interest in obtaining legal advice concerning labor and trade union rights compared to males.

THE GOVERNMENT’S ROLE IN EMPOWERING WOMEN

In the same context, the participants discussed the government’s role in combating the exploitation of women in the informal sector, noting the importance of forming labor courts to facilitate the resolution of labor disputes, and stressing the importance of educating women about labor rights according to the law. They also conversed about the Ministry of Labor and Economy’s role in overseeing and inspecting the working conditions in the informal sector to prevent the abuse of workers’ rights and how to strengthen women’s efforts in the national economy.

THE IMPROVEMENT OF WOMEN’S LABOR RIGHTS

At the end of the discussion, participants stressed the significance of intensifying the mechanisms of supervision and inspection of workplaces to prevent the exploitation of women and violation of their labor rights. Also, the establishment of specialized labor courts should be created to expedite the resolution of labor disputes and formation of appropriate and suitable environment to encourage women to work, such as providing safe and comfortable transportation to various workplaces. They also discussed enhancing coordination between different ministries to guide university education policies to suit the needs of the labor market to reduce unemployment among graduates. They emphasized the necessity to amend provisions of the Labor Law to give women more labor rights and increased control over the labor sectors to reduce the exploitation of women. Further, the participants concluded to raise awareness among the society about the importance of women’s work and their role in all economic fields and community development.

ABOUT THE PROJECT

This training is part of the “Fostering social inclusion and gender equality within Palestinian society through tackling gender stereotypes” project. It seeks to counter discriminatory and exclusionary practices and behaviors that contribute to the promotion of gender inequality, provide safe spaces for groups, especially marginalized youth and women, encourage discussions regarding gender-based social issues, and improve the exchange of experiences between various Palestinian community components to enhance social cohesion.

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This project is co-funded by the European Union within the framework of the regional programme Med Film.
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