Inside Israel and the Palestinian Territories
Recycling garbage into art, Gaza style
A group of Gazan women are beating high unemployment, achieving self-empowerment, and raising environmental awareness, all with a rather unconventional resource: garbage.
With funding from USAID, the Organisation for Supporters of Palestinian Environment launched a project that trains and assists 24 women in creating craft items for sale out of household garbage.
The artists display their flower vases made of plastic soda bottles, or wall-hangings made of tree bark, and scrap metal at two or three-day exhibitions, where potential buyers can make their purchase.
Each piece sells for about 20 to 50 NIS ($5-10 U.S. dollars). Twenty-five percent of the total sales are distributed to the craft workers.
The Gaza Strip is sealed off by an Israeli blockade against the ruling Hamas, which seized control of the strip in 2008 and refuses to recognise Israel.
The isolation has made the Gaza economy almost entirely dependent on foreign aid with unemployment reaching up to 40 percent and poverty levels rising.
In such conditions, the sales mean sizeable incomes for the dextrous women.
Manager of the environmental group, Wissam Abu Jalambo, says he thought of launching such an initiative while trying to find a way to educate more people on being more eco-friendly.
“The idea received funding in 2008, as part of the initiative ‘managing household waste’. Through it, we were able to start five-months training workshops, which came after courses that taught environmental principles. The aim is providing the women with an income, and assisting the environment by reducing waste, even if only by a little bit. The idea is to raise awareness through recycling waste and making use of it,” he said.
One of the recycling crafters, Samar Ahmad Abu Najaa, says this is not just a job for them but also a way to relieve stress and feel empowered.
“This is a nice idea because first, people can vent internal tensions. Second, it is a good income for the women and it makes her feel that she exists,” Abu Najaa said.
Click below to watch the women at work in Gaza City, filmed on November 15, 2009:
PHOTO: Palestinian women ride a donkey-pulled cart past a garbage dump in Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip January 20, 2009. REUTERS/Patrick Baz/Pool