Supporters of the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC) are raising funds for a project in the Khan Younis area of Gaza, which will see training and employment opportunities created for at least sixty women in war-devastated region.
A fundraiser takes place in the Tunnel Bar in Portadown on Friday, November 6, with a traditional music session and story-telling night.
In the aftermath of last year’s conflict in Gaza, a number of people in Portadown who had previously been involved in various initiatives relating to Palestine came together to form a local branch of the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign.
Forming the branch has permitted people in the area to become more pro-active on the whole Palestinian issue on a long-term basis.
IPSC members made contact with community workers in Khan Younis to see how they could provide assistance to those most affected by the conflict.
A proposal was received back from Gaza in relation to a potential project which sought to provide direct assistance to women in those families where the main bread-winner was either killed or seriously injured as a result of the Israeli bombardment.
That initiative proposed the provision of training and employment opportunities to women by creating a small, co-operatively-based food-processing unit where various baked foods, jams etc could be produced thereby empowering some of those most affected by the conflict and, at the same time, providing them with a source of income.
Although small, the value of this and other similar projects in Palestine should not be under-estimated. UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestine refugees, reported last week that 13,167 refugee families in Gaza remain displaced because of the damage done to their homes by the 2014 conflict.
The massive destruction which Israeli forces wreaked upon the Khan Younis area, coupled with the interference which the Portadown IPSC experienced in sending funds to Gaza as a result of Israeli’s ongoing economic blockade, hindered the commencement of the women’s project for many months.
However, in recent times, the project is now on track. A progress report provided this month to the IPSC by the El-Baraem Development Society gives details of several public meetings held in Khan Younis to inform local women about the project.
Over 100 women expressed firm interest in the project and sixty of those, aged between 25 and 45, have now been formally recruited. A training programme has been developed which will commence in the next few weeks. Premises in which to locate the project have also been identified.
Speaking about the project, the chairperson of the Portadown IPSC branch, Ciarán Ó Fearghail, said, “It’s good to see that this project is finally coming to fruition.
“We ‘adopted’ the women’s empowerment project locally as a means by which people in Portadown and surrounding areas could provide some form of positive and long-lasting aid to the Palestinian people. Since last year, we have raised several thousand pounds to help this initiative get off the ground. Local people have been fantastic in their response.”