it’s my right
Palestinian women tell their stories
Women’s Rights Advocacy through Community Storytelling
February 2012-October 2013
Supported by: Open Society Foundations
The project is designed to strengthen the role of Palestinian civil society in promoting women’s rights. It specifically intends to increase the capacity of 80 rural and 20 urban Palestinian women in the southern West Bank to conduct advocacy for the rights of women in the fields of health, work, education and protection against violence. The main method is community advocacy by storytelling in four local communities in the southern West Bank.
According to the recent World Bank Gender Report on the region, the situation for women in the oPt is fraught with violence and oppression at all levels. In the context of occupation, Palestinians experience restrictions in mobility as a result of checkpoints, settler’s roads, and the Separation Wall. Palestinian women face problems of personal security and harassment on the road when facing the army, or at home in the case of arrests and house demolitions. They are disproportionately affected by problems of accessing hospitals and clinics, resulting in the death of women and babies. The fragmentation of the various regions in the oPt and the resulting shrinking of social space have a deep impact on women whose daily life strategies are in general more dependent on networking than men’s. The fragmentation and restrictions in combination with the PNA’s lack of sovereign power negatively affect the economy and the development potential of the society, also with regard to the emancipation of women.
Within Palestinian society, women in the oPt face discriminatory policies and laws, such as the family law. In education and in the labour market, women tend to be concentrated in certain academic and professional fields and face lack of equal opportunities in follow-up studies, pay, working conditions and promotion possibilities. Domestic violence and violence in general against women have increased according to recent sources. At the same time, studies show that more than ever the home and family remain pillars in the society, and that women play essential roles as caretakers, educators, providers, and transmitters of collective memory and culture.
Women who take the lead in advocacy campaigns for women’s rights face a range of obstacles. In general, and especially in the more socially conservative countryside, negative cultural attitudes exist towards women asserting women’s rights. This is even more so when such rights deal with violence against women which is often considered a private affair. Educational institutions in Palestine usually do not provide models of independent behaviour in textbooks nor in school life, and actively discourage as unwomanly an attitude by girls or young women to challenge cultural norms. In religious life, sermons often reinforce traditional gender role divisions and behavior in the domestic and public spheres. In addition, some political circles consider struggling for women’s rights as contradictory to the requirements of the national struggle. With the accumulation of problems faced in the household and the need for survival, it is a challenge for women to find the time and energy to confront the aforementioned hindrances. While local and international media such as satellite TV stations, but also local radio stations often listened to by women, may voice a variety of views on issues of women’s rights, such influences are insufficient for change when not complemented by personal encouragement from the immediate environment.
At the same time, there is an awareness among the Palestinian government in the West Bank that fostering women’s rights should be a national priority. The project will make use of the Cross-Sectorial National Gender Strategy: Promoting Gender Equality and Equity 2011-2013, of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and the associated Strategic Plan for Combating Violence Against Women 2011-2019. The National Gender Strategy’s recommendations in the areas of health, labor, education and violence against women will guide the women groups’ training in the project and will be brought in discussion as advocacy themes.
The project will strengthen the role of grassroots Palestinian civil society in promoting women’s rights,and so challenge the assumption that struggles for women’s rights in Palestinian society should be primarily conducted top-down or initiated by what some consider “elite” university groups. The project may help in the long run to achieve (a more) equal participation of men and women in social, economic and political life in the West Bank. The second impact level is conditioned by the first.
Increasing the capacity of 80 rural and 20 urban Palestinian women in the southern West Bank to conduct advocacy for the rights of women in the fields of health, work, education and protection against violence.
Capacity is understood as a comprehensive concept that requires knowledge, skills, and attitudes; and the ability to take initiatives and apply available community resources, tools and policies on women’s rights.