by Hamada Hattab, Osama Radi, Saud Abu Ramadan
GAZA, May 1 (Xinhua) -- Ranad al-Ghoz, a Gaza woman in her early 20s, went to work on Labor's Day at a restaurant on Gaza city's seaside. A scene that is unfamiliar to girls living in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip -- she challenged the strict traditions of the enclave's conservative society.
In the Gaza Strip, it is considered a big shame for a young woman to work as waitress in restaurants and cafes. But Al-Ghoz never felt that way. She admitted that the hard living conditions in the impoverished enclave obliged her to do men's jobs.
"I'm trying to find and prove myself by breaking the society's restrictions imposed on women who want to work and help their families," al-Ghoz said, adding that she is totally convinced of what she does although many Gaza women still prefer not to get such kind of a job.
According to official Palestinian figures, the percentage of women's participation in the labor market in the Gaza Strip in general is not exceeding 12 percent, where the vast majority of women choose to join the fields of health, education and private sector companies.
Al-Ghoz, who graduated from a college where she studied "hotel and tourism," argues that this reality in the Strip should change sooner or later, adding that "work is work, and the term of success is in the qualification of the person, and we have the ability to challenge and to succeed."
Wearing the Hijab to cover her hair, and holding a small notebook and a pen to write down the orders of the customers, the young Gazan lady told Xinhua that the vast majority of the customers gaze at her with surprise because such a job -- waitress, has been always the job of males in Gaza.
But she said "I don't pay attention to silly comments."
Al-Ghoz leaves her house very early in the morning, even on Labor's Day. She said she works so hard in a bid to help her family of seven people who live under difficult economical circumstances.
She wishes to succeed and be more qualified, and shares this incentive with her female colleague Asmahan Nasser, who also works as a waitress at one of Gaza city's hotels. Nasser, also very enthusiastic about the job, said she gradually earns self- confidence since she started four months ago.
Al-Ghoz said with happiness while she wore the special uniform of the restaurant, "I got accommodated very quickly although I faced some difficulties in the beginning." "Still many men oppose the idea of letting their wives or sisters to do such kind of a job," she said.
Mohamed Abdel Salam, one of the customers who likes very much the idea and comes regularly to the restaurant, said that he is not annoyed to see a woman working as waitress. "Many wives who come with their husbands to the restaurant prefer to deal with women and not with men," he said.
"I like the idea of competition between men and women mainly in this kind of jobs. This in fact would help our closed society with hard traditions to be opener and to enlarge its understanding and get developed like any other country in the world," said Abdel Salam.
Salah Abu Haseira, the owner of the restaurant called "Al-Salam 'peace' restaurant in Gaza's seaside, said he has no problem having al-Ghoz working as a waitress. "Having a male or a female in my business doesn't make any difference; sometimes, she does better than men," he said.
The idea of having girls working at restaurants "is a unique phenomena and it would certainly help the tourism sector in Gaza," Haseira said, adding that so far he has received neither any complaints from customers nor any warning from Hamas government not to hire women.
When Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip in June 2007, it tried to impose restrictions on women, such as not allowing women to smoke the water-pipe or the Argelh in public. But now, Hamas government is trying to avoid imposing restrictions to ease the life of the people who are under an Israeli siege.
Unemployment and poverty are two other main reasons that obliged women to look for jobs that men do. Fatema al-Halloul, another Gaza woman, decided to fix cellular phones in a small shop in Gaza city's neighborhood of Sheja'eya, a very conservative Gaza area.
"Many times I hear insulting comments by some silly customers, but I don't pay attention to what they say. I have hundreds of customers who like very much what I'm doing and feel so happy when I fix their mobiles," said Fatema, who has studied technical course in fixing technological machines.