Salma al-Najjar, a 16-year-old Palestinian who works at a petrol station to help her family with income, adds fuel into a jerrycan in Khan Yunis in southern Gaza Strip
Salma al-Najjar adds fuel into a jerrycan in Khan Yunis in southern Gaza Strip
Photo: AFP
Salma al-Najjar adds fuel into a jerrycan in Khan Yunis in southern Gaza Strip

Gaza's first female gas station attendant challenges 'traditions'

Salma al-Najjar, who is only 15, says she wants to 'support Palestinian women and show they can do whatever they want', while her boss says he was more than happy to hire a female

AFP |
Published: 11.25.20 , 21:52
Salma al-Najjar, a petrol station attendant in the Gaza Strip, sees her part-time job in larger terms than the traditional act of filling a customer's tank.
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  • The 15-year-old trailblazer is the first female to work at a gas station in the Palestinian territory, which has been controlled by the Islamist group Hamas since 2007.
    Salma al-Najjar, a 16-year-old Palestinian who works at a petrol station to help her family with income, adds fuel into a jerrycan in Khan Yunis in southern Gaza Strip Salma al-Najjar, a 16-year-old Palestinian who works at a petrol station to help her family with income, adds fuel into a jerrycan in Khan Yunis in southern Gaza Strip
    Salma al-Najjar adds fuel into a jerrycan in Khan Yunis in southern Gaza Strip
    (Photo: AFP)
    Sporting an orange and black vest and poised for her next vehicle, Najjar said she wanted to "support Palestinian women and show they can do whatever they want, despite the criticism they face."
    Gaza, under a joint Israeli-Egyptian blockade since 2007, had unemployment and poverty rates of roughly 50 percent before the Covid-19 pandemic further devastated the enclave's economy.
    While the job of pump attendant may be facing extinction in much of the world, Palestinians still prefer to have a paid professional fill their tanks.
    When the boss of a petrol station in Khan Yunis in southern Gaza informed her she had been hired, Najjar said she was both surprised and happy.
    Salma al-Najjar, a 16-year-old Palestinian who works at a petrol station to help her family with income, refuels a car in Khan Yunis in southern Gaza Strip Salma al-Najjar, a 16-year-old Palestinian who works at a petrol station to help her family with income, refuels a car in Khan Yunis in southern Gaza Strip
    Salma al-Najjar refuels a car in Khan Yunis in southern Gaza Strip
    (Photo: AFP)
    "Why not become the first woman to do this job and challenge traditions in our conservative society," she said, adding that she was encouraged by her family.
    Boss Mohammed al-Agha said he was more than willing to hire a female.
    "I am a businessman and I support all girls and women who want to achieve their dreams," Agha said.
    In addition to being a pioneer for women in Gaza, Najjar said she is also representing young people.
    Salma al-Najjar, a 16-year-old Palestinian who works at a petrol station to help her family with income, hands over a card to the driver of a vehicle in Khan Yunis in southern Gaza Strip Salma al-Najjar, a 16-year-old Palestinian who works at a petrol station to help her family with income, hands over a card to the driver of a vehicle in Khan Yunis in southern Gaza Strip
    Salma al-Najjar hands over a card to the driver of a vehicle in Khan Yunis in southern Gaza Strip
    (Photo: AFP)
    "I'm young but not a child," she said. "I want to prove that it's not age that matters, it's skills."
    Palestinian law allows people to begin work at age 18.
    In a 2018 report, the UN's International Labour Organization said 4.5 percent children in Gaza and the occupied West Bank are part of the workforce, calling that a "worrying" figure.

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