Gazan Stories: A Working Mother

Jihad, a 48 years-old working mother and wife.

Me and my family, we are the same as all the other families in Gaza, exposed and living under unsettling and unimaginable conditions. We can’t find jobs to feed our children, so we try every means possible. , However, I still don’t have a stable income – it all depends on how much steel I can find or how many hours I am able to work before me or my donkey are exhausted.”  


This is Jihad Abu Mihaisen, a 48 years-old working mother and wife, living with her husband and 2 children in a temporary shelter made out of metal. She is the breadwinner of the house who goes out every day in search of stones and steel so that she can sell them and earn something to feed her family. Since there is a lot of rubble lying around after the horrifying 2014 attack on Gaza, Jihad like many others, goes in search of stones and steel which requires a lot of physical work. When she comes back home in the evening, she is frustrated and exhausted due to all the physical work she does in the whole day. She has to go through the rubble of damaged houses in order to find the stones and steel, and even though she goes to such lengths her income is not fixed.

On top of the drastic living conditions, she also faces problems related to electricity. Since the airstrike in 2006 which hit the Gaza power plant, the regulation of electricity has reduced quite severely. And after the complete shutdown in 2016 due to lack of fuel reserves, many sectors such as business sector, education sector as well as services sectors have taken a huge toll. Jihad says “My two sons are part of the afternoon shift in their schools, so they need to study in the evening. Unfortunately, the electricity is then usually cut. We depend on a rechargeable lamp, which provides some low light”. The children can only study till evening because the electricity is unstable. Electricity blackouts last up to 18-20 hours every day. Jihad prefers to use rechargeable lamps instead of candles because once when she used candles, it lead to a fire. Jihad stated “I am trying to avoid using candles because one day we used them and this caused a fire in the room. The rechargeable lights are better but they are very expensive.”

It’s hard to imagine life without electricity, a life where your income is based on collecting stones and steel from damaged homes, homes that were destroyed due to war. Jihad lives with her family in such an environment where electricity is available just for around 4 hours, comparatively, we have it 24/7. How can people live without electricity? It’s a necessity without a doubt. But for the families like Jihad in Gaza, things categorized under necessities mean something else. What is important for them is survival, how to survive is their main concern. When we look at their living conditions, we can’t help but just wonder – how do they survive in such conditions? How do they earn a living? How do they take care of their families? Just how? Their situation raises many questions in our mind because our lives can easily be considered luxurious as compared to theirs in this matter.

There are many necessities which they require to have a standard life but unfortunately, they are not available to them. Their lives are below standard and that’s what we all need to change. Humanity is at stake over here. You are the only person who can decide, be an angel and elevate humanity, or not do anything and let the humanity meet its end. Someone has to take a step, will you?

Source: UNRWA – United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees in the near east