Fitness First: Improving Maternal Health for Palestinian Women
Palestinian women have historically played a significant role in their community development efforts. However, pregnant women are constantly confronted with cultural challenges as well as contextual ones that restrict them for valuing childbirth education and pre-natal fitness. Stereotypes and traditional education continue to limit pregnant women. Fitness is considered a luxury service rather than a healthy life-style, and this stereotype is mainly driven by the social tradition whereby pregnant women don't seek scientifically backed information about childbirth and pregnancy, but instead rely on experiences shared by family and friends. Other challenges are more contextual, where movement of people and specifically women from rural areas is seen as unsafe. Further, recent assessments of childbirth and maternal health in both the West Bank and Gaza show that hospitals, both governmental and private, “face daunting challenges in providing safe and satisfying care.”
In order to address this aspect of maternal health and women’s health in general, I founded Hareer; a wellness studio focused on improving women’s health, especially pregnant women, through exercise and physical fitness. Hareer succeeded since its establishment in 2012 in raising awareness about childbirth education and pre-natal fitness and has gained its credibility from the successful impact and feedback provided by its clients, as well as OBGYNs who are now referring clients to the studio. Through traditional and digital media series, as well as partnerships with corporates that focused on raising awareness among their staff and with our international non-governmental organizations partners to extend our reach to more cities where we conduct workshops and training with women, we were able to reach out to more women; however, mainly in urban areas. Interest in reaching out to Palestinian women in rural areas continues to rise, and we at Hareer foresees sustainable change possible only when it trains women from rural areas on childbirth and parenting skills. If women can’t come to us, we will go to them.
Over the past six years, Hareer succeeded at serving more than 350 pregnant women through Pre-natal fitness, 564 women through childbirth education and 18 couples (parents to be) through childbirth education courses.
Our hope and goal is to reach more women and more parents to educate, to improve women’s health especially maternal health and to empower women to take charge in their own communities.
About the Author
Middle East Program
The Wilson Center’s Middle East Program serves as a crucial resource for the policymaking community and beyond, providing analyses and research that helps inform U.S. foreign policymaking, stimulates public debate, and expands knowledge about issues in the wider Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Read more
Middle East Women's Initiative
The Middle East Women's Initiative (MEWI) promotes the empowerment of women in the region through an open and inclusive dialogue with women leaders from the Middle East and continuous research. Read more