I live in a housing project in Gaza. The inhabitants were moved here by force from a refugee camp in the 1970s. I have my own home here, and I have never left during emergencies despite its small space. My sons and I live here… where would we go?
I have a diploma in nursing and served as a nurse for nine years. When I got married I left my work. Now I receive NIS 750 (US$210) every three or four months from the Ministry of Social Affairs, but this is not enough to cover the costs of transport and medication.
How did you get involved in campaigning for older people’s rights in this particular humanitarian context?
I started campaigning at the invitation of El-Wedad. I participated with my friends in an Age Demands Action march to the Palestinian Legislative Council. I want to express myself and need a platform where I can meet decision-makers so they can hear my voice. I want to tell them about the needs of older people and explain our situation. I am motivated by the difficulties we have been living through, and the bad future my sons are facing. I go everywhere to express my anger and concerns.
Have you ever experienced discrimination because of your age?
I have never faced discrimination because of my age. I don’t recall any of my friends telling me about suffering from discrimination, but this is probably because they feel shame about it! However, if I hear about such behaviour, I will stand with my friends and fight it. I make my own decisions, my sons obey me, and respect me, thanks to God! As an older woman, I don’t feel that I am different than others due to my age, at least in my home!
Tell me about your proudest moments
I feel proud when I am invited to participate in any event about our human rights. When El-Wedad invites me, I feel happy that I am able to express myself and on behalf of my peers. But unfortunately the internal conflict here is a real challenge to reach our goal. El-Wedad used to invite us to participate in other activities such as psychosocial support, education and craftwork, but recently it could not do that.
What are you campaigning for right now, and how are you doing it?
Now, we are campaigning for a social benefit system, transportation, entertainment, and a good place for providing healthcare for older people. Even medicine is not available. No one is responding positively to our demands! Our activities are general marches at official occasions, attending focus groups and participating at meetings with others like El-Wedad and Grandfather House, and sometimes with the media.
What effect has campaigning had on you as an older person?
I help to alleviate the suffering of others, and some peers ask for advice. I used to share my experience with my sons and grandsons, telling them what I had done for my husband, my mother-in-law and father-in-law such as helping them to raise their voices. Life was different then from now. There were no fears. People and neighbours were happier and my house was open to all.
In the past, we women were marginalised, but now we are more free to go around and participate in social events. I always ask older women to come with me and participate. I am happy that older women listen to me and trust me. My neighbour used to ask me to take her any time I went out. She said: “I want to be like you and feel trust in myself”.
Participating in campaigns has empowered me, and developed my self-esteem. I have many friends, we see each other a lot. But I feel terrified of war. It is not fear about myself, but fear about my sons and grandsons and my home. We spent a lot to have this home. This is a really terrible time!
I wish that decision-makers listen to our voices – like my peers listen to me!
Do you have a message for other older people around the world?
I wish goodness and health for you all, to get rid of sieges and wars, to have peace for all. We have had enough of wars and conflict. Our younger generations feel frustrated about their dark future. We are looking for calm, stability, and peace!
With thanks to HelpAge global network member El Wedad Society for Community Rehabilitation
Read more stories from older campaigners.