Nutrition classes open new horizons for Palestinian women

The World Food Programme nutrition education for vulnerable Palestinian women gives them motivation to pursue new paths.

Many women in Palestine share the same story; the burdens of raising a family on limited incomes, gender bias and socio-economic hardships. This all usually restricts them to their roles as mothers and housewives in a difficult setting where limited jobs and growing family demands prevent them from catching up on missed education or bigger plans they had as younger girls.

However, nutrition education classes, part of WFP assistance programme in Palestine, proves to give them a lot more mileage. These three women in Gaza are changing their lives around after having attended these classes.

Manar at WFP’s nutrition education session explaining the best matches of food ingredients to make a healthy and nutritious meal on a small budget. Photo: WFP/Yasmine Abuelassal

“I want to take my destiny into my own hands. I do not want to be just a housewife. The day I was selected as a Mother Leader was the happiest day in my life.”

Manar, 29, is a mother of four who married young but never forgot her dream of pursuing higher education. “I used to listen to the educators during the nutrition awareness sessions, prepare homework and actively participate in the discussions as if I am attending university,” she says.

“Now I became an educator assistant and I deliver sessions to other women. I even regularly volunteer to share my knowledge with children at elementary schools and kindergartens.”

After attending WFP’s Nutrition Education, the Palestinian NGO Ard El Insan implements, Manar was selected as “Mother Leader”. While the title does not capture their full scope of the women’s capabilities and potentials, it gives recognition of excellence and merits to many women who struggle in Gaza’s confined nature and limited opportunities.

“I want to take my destiny into my own hands. I do not want to be just a housewife. The day I was selected as a Mother Leader was the happiest day in my life,” says Manar. Her husband also supports her and takes care of their four children when she is away giving presentations or classes.

Randa delivering a session on the prevention of anaemia to women participants in WFP’s nutrition awareness sessions in Jabalia. Photo: WFP/Yasmine Abuelassal

“Every woman has the right to realise her ambitions.”

Randa, 27, is another Mother Leader whose personal story echoes Manar’s. She dreamed of becoming a journalist, but because of her family’s limited resources her male brothers were given priority to higher education. She never got to pursue that dream.

“I believe every woman has the right to realise her ambitions,” Randa says. “The nutrition education paved the way for me to pursue other goals”. She has recently registered at the Al-Aqsa College to start studying nutrition.

The nutrition education is primarily aimed at maximizing the impact of the in-kind food and electronic food vouchers assistance that vulnerable Palestinian households receive from WFP. Nevertheless, it contributes to exposing Gazan women to the outside world, expanding their social networks and strengthening their roles in their domestic circles.

Sana’ listening attentively to Ghada (left) and helping Dr. Husam while he treats a patient at his clinic in Khan Yunis (right). Photo: WFP/Yasmine Abuelassal

Sana’, 27, did not know how much her life will change when she set out to attend these classes. “I did not like the idea of participating in education sessions,” she says. “The first class, however, has changed my mind completely; I learnt about gender issues and how we deserve to be treated as equals to men and develop our self-confidence.”

The mother of four girls says she had suffered from deep depression and cried all the time because of her family’s hard life and lack of money.

“I learnt about gender issues and how we deserve to be treated as equals to men and develop our self-confidence.”

Sana’, motivated and determined to change her life, found a part-time job as a dentist assistant. “The 300 shekels (US$85) I get every month allow cook chicken for my girls every Friday. We could not afford any kind of meat before and were completely dependent on the flour we receive from WFP.”

Since 2011, WFP has been running the nutrition education across the Gaza Strip in partnership with Ard Al Insan. More than 5000 women, men and school children participate in the six-month sessions. Women participants increase their knowledge about the best diet and cooking practices even on a small budget. In addition, they attend special sessions on hygiene, caring for infants, mother’s nutrition during pregnancy and breast feeding and prevention of communicable diseases.

World Food Programme Insight

Insight by The World Food Programme

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