In the words of Samar Al Shaer: ‘I have become more aware of my rights and the organizations that can provide me with protection from violence’


Samar Al Shaer
Samar Al Shaer, 40 years old, from Hableh in Qalqiliya. The only breadwinner in her family. Photo: UN Women

Samar Al Shaer, 40, is living with a joint disability and has metal plates inserted in her leg. She is from Hableh, a rural area in Qalqiliya, the West Bank. Al Shaer is a divorced mother of three children, and she is their only breadwinner. Along with her eldest son, she is doing a bachelor’s degree and is about to finish it soon.

Due to her disability, she cannot walk long distances. The doctor recommended that she regularly have physiotherapy. However, she had only two sessions and stopped as she could not afford the regular treatment. Her daughter suffers near-sightedness and deviation. The doctor recommended that she do surgery, but she did not manage to afford it as well.

Al Shaer was among the women who received cash for work opportunities paired with skill development trainings and gender-based violence (GBV) protection services including legal counselling, awareness-raising sessions, and psychosocial support; all provided by UN Women in Palestine through generous funding from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF). After accessing the multisectoral services, Al Shaer has become financially, psychologically, and emotionally secure.

When offered the work opportunity, my family was worried about the way my community sees women with disabilities and their potential to success as working women. My children were highly influenced by society’s negative perception of women. However, as I started to work, I was able to prove to them that I was able to balance between my work and care duties. I succeeded in both. When women work and prove themselves, others start to seek their advice both on work and daily life issues.’ said Al Shaer.  

‘Not only women participating in the project but also their families report changes in perceptions and attitudes that perpetuate gender-based violence and gender inequalities,’ highlighted Maryse Guimond, UN Women Special Representative in Palestine.

‘I worked at Hableh Kindergarten and Association, where I was mainly responsible for planning their activities and training sessions, including booking venues and organizing logistics. In addition, I represented the Association in several external meetings held in Nablus and Ramallah,’ Al Shaer further said.

‘Small amounts, if used properly, make big difference. With my first salary, I paid off some of my debts, covered my university course fees, and purchased some of the household necessities, such as glasses for my daughter. Being financially independent is paramount.

“The GBV protection services I received were super valuable and eye-opening. I used to think that practicing violence against women is a right of men, be it a father, a brother, or a husband. However, I now can see that violence against women should never be tolerated and is indeed a grave violation. I have become more aware of my rights and the organizations that can provide me with legal counselling and protection from violence. In addition, dealing with diverse participants was a good chance to reach other actors who can provide us with other services we need”.

“With the training sessions, I have become capable to identify my strengths and to best capitalize on them. I have become more self-confident in public speaking. I was lost, but today I can clearly identify my passion and goals. I acquired communication skills through which I can now better deal with others, at home, university, and work.“ 

‘Coupling cash for work/cash assistance schemes with GBV services empowers women and girls, who are survivors of violence, seek solutions out of abusive environment and become active actors in building their communities,’ said Amal Tarazi, the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) General Secretary.

“With the psychosocial support I received; I can today see the bright side of life. Today, when faced by obstacles, I first accept them, and directly think about solutions, which applies to all aspects of my life. I used to suffer from insomnia and overthinking. The work experience has become a relief and helped me to divert from overthinking about my disability. I started to use my time more fruitfully so that I can help myself and my family. Moreover, I can now identify my weaknesses. While I used to be super shy to talk about my disability, I now can confidently speak about it, which is in itself a strength,” highlighted Al Shaer.