A series of discussion sessions on the integration of women in urban planning was held by MIFTAH in partnership with the GIZ-implemented project “Enhancing Gender Equality and promote Women Participation in local Governance in West Bank including east Jerusalem and Gaza Strip” which is part of the regional program “Strengthening Women in Decision Making in the Middle East” (LEAD) with funding from BMZ project, The discussions were aimed at broadening the circle of interaction on gender issues and focusing on the need to integrate gender into urban planning, thereby taking into consideration the exclusivity of women and marginalized sectors in local communities. The participants in the sessions focused on the need for MIFTAH-sponsored training to include both men and women.
The sessions were held on the backdrop of MIFTAH’s experience in Habitat III, the UN conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development, which was held in Quito, Ecuador in October, 2016, where MIFTAH’s participation reflected in organizing side events that revolved around the importance of integrating gender in urban development and planning and how the participation of women members in Local Council Units [LGUs] could help create change in urban development in Palestinian towns and cities. The presentation also included local experiences that highlighted women’s representation in the urban planning process, including the Arraba experience.
Presentations at the sessions were made by representatives from technical committees in the central districts of Jerusalem, Ramallah, Jericho and the Jordan Valley and also from the northern districts: Nablus, Tulkarm and Jenin. The most standout presentations called for developing tools of popular participation so that components of the community could benefit from development projects. They also called for determining the criteria for choosing the sectors to be integrated in the planning and implementation process in addition to following up on the outputs of the implemented projects. They called for promoting cooperation and coordination among LGUs as part of the joint councils, especially since urban planning is a development process and is considered one of the tools for reinforcing steadfastness in the face of the Israeli occupation’s measures and settlement expansion, both of which hinder urban planning and expansion in Palestinian cities, towns and villages.
They also reaffirmed the need to promote the participatory approach with various sectors of society and support the political participation of women through parties and factions in the formation of electoral lists. They called for supporting women’s representation and other qualified people in these lists to ensure that the right person is in the right place, stressing on the need for continuous coordination between elected members and the technical team in LGUs. This, they said would support strategic approaches and their interpretation in the planning and execution process of various development plans.
MIFTAH’s experience in Ecuador
MIFTAH participated in the Habitat III conference in May, 2016 in order to shed light on the importance of women’s participation in urban planning and to promote gender integration in urban development, in participation with the regional program “Strengthening Women in Decision Making in the Middle East” (LEAD) implemented by GIZ. MIFTAH support convey the experience of Dr. Rula Jadallah, lecturer at the Arab-American University in Jenin and deputy mayor of the Arraba municipality, an actual example of women’s participation in urban planning. MIFTAH supported Dr. Jadallah to present the Arraba experience through the production of a documentary film “Opportunities and Challenges” which portrayed women’s interventions and participation in the town’s planning.
Jadallah stressed on the benefits of holding these discussion sessions on women’s integration in urban planning, maintaining that these discussions strengthened women’s awareness on their role in this regard. They also gave women the opportunity to showcase their successes and achievements. “Such discussion sessions greatly impact women; they hear success stories and how other women overcame the challenges they faced at their positions in local councils. The discussions also gave them a chance to inquire about and contemplate these experiences for the future,” she said.
Learning about other’s experiences
Dr, Ali Abdel Hamid and Osama Saleh, director of the National Center for Sustainable Development, offered background information on the UN Habitat III conference, which convenes once every 20 years and where several countries present their experiences in urban development. They also gave a presentation on the stages of urban planning, the relationship of physical planning with the other various levels and the link between urban planning and the strategic approaches of LGUs.
Dr. Abdel Hamid, head of the urban planning engineer department at Najah University noted that MIFTAH has always been an initiator. He said it has played a positive role in promoting women’s participation in the urban planning process towards reaching the aspired change in women’s roles in LGUs. Women, he maintained, are considered the missing link in terms of social participation at the level of LGUs, pointing to the importance of learning about other’s experiences in this field. He said the sessions organized by MIFTAH and GIZ in Habitat III were an opportunity to link the theoretical with the practical through the presentation and discussion of the Arraba experience.
Meanwhile, member of the Bir Nabala town council northwest of Jerusalem, Nasra Qabalani said her attendance of the session allowed her to learn about other’s experiences and benefit from them. “We learned about the Arraba experience and the success stories of women and we were able to share our experiences among each other,” she said. “I am proud of what MIFTAH and GIZ are doing and the support they give to women. I have been involved with MIFTAH since 2005 and I have participated in several workshops and course in the field of sustainable development and urban planning, much of which I apply in my work as town council member,” Qabalani said.
On her part, MIFTAH project director Najwa Yaghi explained that these sessions are part of MIFTAH’s strategic goal of shedding light on the successes of Palestinian women at various levels. “MIFTAH mainly works on supporting women-led initiatives,” Yaghi said, adding that MIFTAH would soon organize a similar session targeting the southern districts.