Enhanced Safety and Privacy for Women and Girls in Gaza
“I felt embarrassed about people visiting my house. Now, our home is safer and more private [and] we receive guests without shame.”
Samr Al-Bashiti* and her husband, Hany,* from Khan Younis, have eight children. Due to the deepening economic crisis in Gaza, unemployment has risen sharply. With jobs increasingly scarce, Hany had to go to the West Bank to find work, but the family largely depends on food assistance from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency and a small stipend from the Ministry of Social Development. Before becoming participants in the Catholic Relief Services shelter program, the family lived in a rundown shelter for more than 18 years, making daily life a constant struggle. The lack of privacy due to unfinished windows and having to cook and wash outdoors made Samr and her daughters feel unsafe.
In 2018, the family was selected for assistance through the Shelter Upgrades for Substandard Housing in Gaza project, funded by the Government of Canada. With support from the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace, CRS and our local partner, the Bayader for Environment & Development Association, the family was able to add a new room, build an indoor kitchen and bathroom, install a lock on the front door, and secure windows, thus giving the children more space and privacy. “The biggest change has been the increase in privacy. Before, we were afraid to go outside at night to use the bathroom,” Samr says. The new kitchen has also improved hygiene, she says, noting that “previously, mice and cats would get into our food.”
The home improvements also allow Samr to spend less time cleaning and more time with her daughters, one of whom has a disability. Samr’s involvement in the home improvement decision‑making processes was an important source of empowerment. She says, “I was involved in making almost 80% of the housing improvement decisions. I decided where to place windows for ventilation and selected the paint colors for the walls. My daughters also participated and we accomplished everything we needed. I felt that my dream was finally coming true.”
*Names have been changed to protect identities.