Beyond Gender Inequality – Inequality in wellbeing among different female groups in the Occupied Palestinian Territories: A Multidimensional Approach

Nimeh, Zina; Franco-Correa, Andrea (2014). 'Beyond Gender Inequality – Inequality in wellbeing among different female groups in the Occupied Palestinian Territories: A Multidimensional Approach' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, 2-5 September 2014, Athens, Greece.

An in-depth understanding of gender based inequality is a very important component for grasping the  development prospects as they pertain to woman specifically and the society as whole.  The 2013 Human Development Report reaffirms an enduring issue of how the disadvantages facing women and girls are a major source of inequality.  Despite much advancement in development, women and girls are discriminated against in health, education and the labour market — with negative repercussions for their freedoms (UNDP 2013).  And while we think about how these disadvantages affect women as they compare to men, we seldom have a more in-depth insight into the situation of different groups of women within a specific society.   In this paper we are interested in investigating a particular type of inequality relating to groups by looking at the women inside those groups. Specifically, how women belonging to different groups are disadvantaged when compared with each other and whether belonging to different groups in the society affects their overall wellbeing.   We specifically take the case of the Occupied Palestinian territories and examine different group constructs between and within the West Bank and Gaza, and analyse the situation of women inside those different groups.

The focus on women in this paper builds on previous research, which looks at how one of the main drivers of group inequality in a society such as that of the OPT stems from the inequality that women are faced with inside certain group constructs, for example coming from a specific territory, belonging to specific ideological group or living in a refugee camp or not (Nimeh 2012).  Thus by investigating and decomposing group inequality and focusing specifically on women, we are able to better understand the relationship between the nature of inequality which women face while at the same time belonging to a group which is marginalized (or less equal than another group)  in the society.  In this case, women are not only faced with group inequality because they belong to a marginalized group, but they must also overcome the additional hurdles they face, simply because they are women.   We look at inequality in the horizontal inequality context, defined as inequality among culturally defined (or constructed) groups (Stewart 2008).  We define different groups by building on the literature in the area of Horizontal inequality (Mancini et al. 2008, Stewart 2000, and Stewart 2008) and looking at the historical and political economy of the country, taking into consideration relevant and current policies and bearing in mind data limitations.

The reality of the OPT is unique. The West Bank and Gaza are two none-bordering territories governed by the Palestinian Authority which was formed in 1994, and which since early 2011 is controlled in Gaza by Hamas, and in the West Bank by Fatah.  In the OPT, society is clearly split into regional groups. An additional divide depicts an ideological split between the nationalistic Fatah and the conservative Islamic Hamas groups. The election victory of Hamas in 2006 and their subsequent seizure of the Gaza strip are considered a tipping point in their thus far diverging evolutionary paths.

The situation of women (and men for that matter) is shaped by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In addition, because of the territories' status, a complex mixture of laws and regulations are in place, it is very difficult for women to fully ascertain their legal rights (Coomaraswamy, 2003).  Moreover, and due to certain societal norms women face more pressure to conform to traditional gender roles, and are faced with discrimination within the Palestinian society. General gender statistics are not promising, literacy rates among women are lower than men, 36% of women are married before they were 18 ( 5% before 15).  The labour force participation of women remains four times lower compared to males (PCBS, 2010). This however isn't necessarily uniform among all groups in the society.

We use a series of nationally representative cross sectional multipurpose household surveys, covering Gaza and the West Bank, and carried out every year between 2005 to 2011. We follow the proposition of Robeyns (2003) while designing a multidimensional poverty index following the methodology of Alkire and Foster (2011),  we focus on dimensions such as life and physical and mental health of women, bodily integrity (freedom from violence), education and paid work (employment), shelter and environment, mobility, and respect. We then compare the level of multidimensional poverty as it relates to the membership of women to those predefined groups by looking at means of the populations weighted and un-weighted coefficient of variation and the group gini  (Mancini, et al 2008). We also analyse the dimension decomposition by groups and their overall contribution to the multidimensionally deprived women. 

The paper concludes with policy recommendations for a variety of stakeholders with a gender focus. This paper is intended to shed new light on a context that has not been examined in such a manner, while making use of the existing work in the capability approach literature on horizontal inequality, gender and multidimensional wellbeing. 

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