The following appeal was transmitted to us by P. M. Glavanis, who would welcome further enquiries. (Address: Sociology Department, University of Durham, Durham DH1 3JT, England, or PO Box 1378, Ramallah, West Bank, via lsrael.)
Our Production Is Our Pride is a Palestinian women’s development project in the occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Its aim is to establish women’s co-operatives based on the production and marketing of Palestinian agricultural products. Additional objectives of the project are:
- to strengthen rural women economically;
- to increase self-sufficiency in the occupied territories;
- to provide balanced and proper nutrition;
- to counteract malnutrition and under-nourishment;
- to raise the standards of hygiene in food production;
- to provide general health and dental care;
- to promote aspects of women’s liberation that derive from their own ideological demands within their own culture;
- to encourage the small minority of educated women in the village to co-operate with the large majority of “uneducated” women;
- to promote a Palestinian national-cultural identity, since Palestinian food is part of the people’s cultural identity.
The project has also sought to promote certain general principles:
- non-factionalism in internal Palestinian politics;
- low capital investment;
- labour-intensive production schemes;
- wide-ranging opportunities for different ways of contribution and work within the co-operative;
- provision of basic education for rural women in certain fields; and
- promotion of a non-profit economy.
The project has been implemented in four phases:
- Education and motivation;
- Experimental production; and
- Production, marketing and sales.
The project in the occupied territories was implemented in co-operation with the department of Sociology and Anthropology at the University of Birzeit.
The majority of the funding for the project was provided by the Norwegian government through the Norwegian Refugee Council and the Norwegian Save the Children. The funding from the Norwegian Refugee Council ended on the 30th of March 1988.
It is our view that the project is rather special and quite original in the manner in which it has been implemented. All participants, be they village women, the project co-ordinators, and everybody else involved as consultants or otherwise, are part of an on-going educational and creative social process, based on contemporary social thought, which is innovative in the occupied territories. Key elements in this process are: First, an increased self-respect and self confidence of each individual, based on group identity and solidarity; or, more simply expressed: “we can ‒ we want ‒ we dare”. Second, the implementation of education, training and economic development in one parallel process, based on the creativity and active participation of the women themselves and their continual evaluation of the total process and its results.
So far, two co-operatives have been established in the West bank, involving about 40 women. In Gaza a co-operative was established with about 30 women, but the fourth phase has been suspended due to difficulties encountered with the formal legal requirements placed by the Israeli military and its so-called civil administration.
The two established co-operatives have already developed a market in such cities as Ramallah, al-Birah, East Jerusalem and the surrounding areas. The main products sold at present by one of the two co-operatives ‒ Beitello in the Ramallah area ‒ are pickled cucumbers, stuffed pickled aubergines, pickled peppers and olives. The co-operative also produces shatt (ground red pepper mixed with salt and citric acid). Other products, sold by the second co-operative ‒ Sa’ir in the Hebron area ‒ include various types of jam, fruit drink concentrate and dried vegetables and fruit. This co-operative constructed its own solar dryers using a simple technique that has been employed in Bangladesh.
The co-operatives are organized on a non-profit basis. The women elect their own administrative board and decide on their own rules and regulations with regard to decision-making, social and economic benefits, work rotas, responsibilities, etc.
Given the present situation ‒ the Palestinian uprising that started on the 7th of December 1987 ‒ it is of vital importance that the Palestinians in the occupied territories be encouraged to develop their socioeconomic infrastructure, which will contribute to the provision, independent of Israel, of employment and food stuffs. Nevertheless, due to the commercial strikes and the general situation in the occupied territories, the two co- operatives, which are still in the early stages of their activity, have suffered. Thus, both need financial support in order to overcome the present difficulties.
Support the co-operatives ‒ support the intifada
Your support is needed urgently!
The co-operatives have both short-term and long-term requirements.
One of the co-operatives, Beitello, has already embarked on production and selling, but has a major problem with accommodation. The present premises are too small, lacking space for expanding production or even for setting up a nursery which is essential. At the same time their viability is under direct threat; in fact, the landlord, under pressure from the military authorities, has given them notice to leave. Thus the co-operative needs its own premises. The total cost of purchasing land and constructing a suitable building is $34,700.
Both co-operatives, Beitello and Sa’ir, need funding for production support, in order to get through the current difficulties and to establish themselves. It is estimated that each co-operative needs approximately $400 per month in order to meet running costs. It is also estimated that they will need about two years to accumulate enough savings to make them self-financing. Due to the intifada (uprising), however, their ability to generate savings has been dramatically curtailed.
The production-assistance funding required for each co-operative is $4,800 per year.
It is hoped that funding will be secured to meet all the demands of all three co-operatives. Nevertheless, even if you are only able to make a partial contribution, it would be most helpful. The order of priorities at present is: first, production assistance to each of the co-operatives ($400 per month each); second, a building for Beitello ($34,000).