The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) Job Creation Program (JCP) gives women in Gaza the opportunity to work from 6:30 a.m. -12:30 p.m. on a carnation farm, which in turn, allows them to support their families.

A typical day begins with women picking flowers in the cool hours of the morning before later retreating into their tents. There, flowers are carefully bundled into decorative bouquets to be exported and sold at local Gaza markets.

According to an article in the UNRWA, 34-year-old worker Ghanda Na’ana’ has finally found a way to provide for her children in the absence of a husband through her employment with the farm.

“The chance to work here is life-saving for me. I am truly happy to be able to work on this farm together with other women. My husband left me three years ago for another woman; I am the only one who supports my children. We survive because of the food assistance we receive from UNRWA,” she says.

An overarching goal and initiative of the UNRWA JCP addresses the problem of female unemployment while also supporting the agricultural sector of the region.

The UNRWA aims to improve the “quality and output of production by increasing manpower to assist with planting, maintenance and harvesting crops while reducing labor costs, which presumably translates into a reduction of market costs for the consumer and ultimately contributes to local food security.”

According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, in the first quarter of 2015, female unemployment in Gaza reached 55.2 percent. This can be attributed to the 2007 blockade which limited exports, obliterating trading opportunities with the rest of the world and severely affecting the agricultural sector of the region.

Raza Hijazi, the owner of the farm where Ghanda works, formerly employed 20 laborers before he was forced to reduce that number to only three. With the 2007 blockade, his business opportunities dwindled as he could no longer export his flowers to Europe. Only with support from the UNRWA, was he able to increase his business and number of employees.

Overall, the JCP has significantly improved the livelihoods for many since its inception in 2006 when 18,385 opportunities were created in the agricultural sector alone (6,350 for female and 12,035 male). Of this number, 2,571 were counted for in the carnation sector.

As of 2014 the UNRWA has calculated that “a total of 20,545 refugees were employed through the JCP, and UNRWA injected US$ 18.1 million into the Gaza economy. In the first quarter of 2015, the Agency created 12,646 JCP opportunities and injected US$ 7 million into the Gaza economy.”

With tremendous efforts currently underway by UNRWA’S JCP, hope is alive for both business owners and women seeking jobs in a country with one of the highest levels of unemployment in the world.

Nikki Schaffer

Sources: UNRWA, Reuters
Photo: alarabiya