The increasing economic poverty in villages in the West Bank is leading to unexpected changes in gender roles and is challenging the tradition of early marriage.
A few years ago, the Trust of Programs for Early Childhood, Family and Community Education, an NGO based in East Jerusalem, offered a course of lectures in the villages. The topics included women's rights, child raising and education. Women, some of whom had never left their houses before, went to listen. Today there is a network of 750 women in five villages and small teams of women who go door to door contacting women isolated inside their homes. The women work with both the local mayors and religious leaders to open discussion about topics that were formerly taboo subjects. Later this year the Trust has plans to start the men talking too.
Jane Gabriel has been in the villages of Beit Bedo, Beit Anan and Beit Doqqu outside Ramallah, listening to those who are involved in the changes on the ground.