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Inheritance Denied: Combating Gender Inequality in Property Rights in Palestine

DanChurchAid (DCA), together with its partners the East Jerusalem YMCA (EJ YMCA), Palestinian Working Woman Society for Development (PWWSD) and Women’s Affairs Center (WAC) in Gaza, puts a needed focus on women’s continued denial of inheritance rights in Palestine.

“…my salary is more than my husband’s…Me and my husband bought an apartment from our money but all the papers and official documents in the land registry are in my husband’s name,” says a woman from Bethlehem. This is not an uncommon scenario in Palestine where only app. 2.5% of the land is owned by women.

Women in Palestine remain a marginalized group who suffer discrimination in most spheres of life be they economic, social, cultural or political. This marginalization starts early in life, which for Palestinian women keeps them outside of the economic/political spheres and relegates them more to the domestic sphere.

In the economic sphere, women hold little or often no role in the decision making processes.

  • “Despite the high and successful secondary school enrolment of women, which generally correlates positively with female work, women’s labor force participation (15+ years) remains low, accounting for only 15.2% of the formal labor force (17.6% in the West Bank, 11% in Gaza).[1]
  • 35 to 50% of university enrolments in West Bank/Gaza are women but this does not translate on labor market, as 88% of women are outside the labor force compared to 29% for men.[2]
  • The vast majority of the female labor force (65.6%) were wage workers, 20.7% unpaid family members, 11.5% self-employed and 2.2% employers.[3]
  • In comparison with men, women are disadvantaged in terms of wages and social security benefits and there are unequal barriers for women entrepreneurs in terms of property and inheritance rights, access to credit, penal liability and the availability of child care facilities.[4]


To help address this issue DCA, EJ YMCA, PWWSD and WAC in Gaza has joined forces in a EUR 860,888 project supported by the European Commission and Danida to secure women’s rights to inheritance in the whole of Palestine. The project started1st of March 2010 and will run for three years.

Through the project DCA, WAC, the EJ YMCA and PWWSD will work with 20 community based organizations in Palestine, that all work to change women’s position in the society and to secure their legal rights to own property.

The project includes:

  • Capacity building of local community based organizations to lead campaigns on women’s property rights issues.
  • Study circles and training events for community based organizations, journalists and lawyers
  • Legal aid for women who’s inheritance is endangered through a network between CBOs, lawyers and journalists.
  • Community and  media campaigns on women’s right to inheritance
  • Awareness raising through documentary movies and drama reenactments.


This project is supported by the European Commission


[1] Passia Diary 2011, Women in the Labor Force, pg. .350.

[2] COMMISSION STAFF WORKING DOCUMENT - Accompanying the COMMUNICATION FROM THE COMMISSION TO THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND THE COUNCIL Implementation of the European Neighbourhood Policy in 2008 - Progress Report the occupied Palestinian territory – Brussels – 4/23/2009 – SEC (2009)

[3] Passia Diary 2011, Women in the Labor Force pg. 350

[4] Passia Diary 2006, Women in the Labor Force, pg. .307.

To Watch a report about Womens Inheritance - click here

As a part of the project “Inheritance Denied: Combating Gender Inequality in Property Rights in Palestine” the EJ YMCA, PWWSD and WAC have held four study circles in Palestine; one in the south of the West Bank (Bethlehem) one in the North (Nablus), one in Ramallah and one in Gaza city, with the participation of lawyers, Women’s Rights Activists, CBO/CSO leaders and journalists. In total 80 people participated in the study circles in the four areas.

The purpose of the study circles was first of all to form alliances between CBOs, lawyers and journalists and to discuss women’s inheritance rights with the purpose of developing a Women’s Property Rights Training manual. During the study circles it was clear that inheritance is a very complicated issue.

A woman from the study circle in Bethlehem tells:

“My husband and I work, and we have two daughters. We bought a house and founded a project that we both work on. Off course all the ownership is under my husband’s name. In the case of my husband’s death all of the inheritance will be divided among my husband’s family”.

And a woman from the study circle in Gaza was deprived of her rights from her own brothers:

“Our brothers deprived my four sisters and me of our inheritance rights. Our elder brother has our share. My younger brother took his legitimate share and enjoyed it. Our elder brother is not educated; he only finished the ninth grade of preparatory school. Imagine, he is depriving us of our legitimate share. He feeds his children from ill-gotten wealth.

It is our legitimate share that passed to us from our deceased father and deceased mother.”


The study circles brought a lot of new knowledge to the participants on the legal possibilities of women to demand their inheritance rights and contributed to the making of a Women’s Property Rights Training Manual.

The manual will be used by local CBOs to conduct training on women’s property rights.

A booklet with information on women’s property rights is also being developed. You can download it here

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