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Biannual Newsletter - Third Edition
Third Edition
UN Resolution 1325
UN Resolution 1325
A Vision for Palestinian Womens Rights Organizations based on the Global Study on the Implementation of UNSCR 1325
(Ten strategies for tackling issues pertaining to Women, Peace and Security)
Date posted: June 14, 2017

Towards a more beautiful Burqa is the name chosen by community activist and member of the Nablus-area Burqa village council Reem Haji along with her colleagues for their initiative which seeks to improve the environment of and overall life in the village. The goal is to make it beautiful, clean and in the best condition possible.

Weekend Solution workshops

Haji and her colleagues participated in a series of weekend solution workshops set up by MIFTAH on the political participation of women in local government through promoting gender equality. This allowed for widening the circle of discussion among the various participants therefore enhancing their knowledge and expertise, ultimately leading to several creative initiatives, which promote women and youth participation in decision making.

The meetings were held in partnership with the program Empowering women in decision making carried out in cooperation with GIZ and with funding from BMZ. They are within the framework of the committees MIFTAH recently formed to advocate for gender issues gender defenders/justice advocates in a number of West Bank and Gaza Strip districts with the aim of leading a social movement towards promoting women and youth participation in public life.

Creative initiative

According to Haji, the initiative is based on a group of activities including: cleaning the stone fence of the Burqa Elementary School and then painting it and installing railing on the schools sidewalk. The outcome was clearly positive for the students in particular, giving them a sense of safety especially since the school is located on the main road. It also had an impact on the rest of the villages residents by making it more beautiful and giving them a sense of comfort and joy. In addition, the gender defenders set up a special tent for women at the village center that included a wall mural signifying social justice. This reflected the major role of gender advocates and better enabled them to direct their energy towards achieving their goal in promoting equality and participation for women in political life.

Challenges and difficulties

The initiative came up against some difficulties at the start. For example, some people did not accept the idea to paint the schools stone fence. However, this obstacle was overcome through the power of persuasion. After the work was completed, the reactions were extremely positive; whole neighborhoods donated buckets of paint to the initiative while the volunteers at the center painted the walls and the mural.

Haji and her colleagues pointed out that the initiatives organizers intended to carry out more initiatives so that Burqa could be even cleaner and more beautiful. Hence, everyone recommended that more support be given to the gender defenders in their village. MIFTAH was one party that gave substantial support, the impact of which was reflected in societys perception of the role of women and promoting their participation in public life side by side with men.

In the Hebron district, the gender defenders and justice advocates carried out another initiative entitled I am Palestinian. This was a camp set up for youth, women and girls at the Red Crescent Center for Disaster Management in the town of Bani Naim.

I am Palestinian

Ala Gheith, a field researcher at the Independent Commission for Human Rights and a gender defender in the Hebron district says this initiative is based on promoting equality and the political participation of women in local government. He said the initiative included training in the first and second stages for youths in which local council members and influential individuals participated. The camp idea, he maintained, was based on the premise of breaking through a prevalent phenomenon in society pertaining to discrimination between the districts and the divisions among them. At this camp, we brought together a diverse group from the city, villages and camps with the hopes of breaking down this barrier quickly, Gheith explains. This is what happened; from day one we were able to create complete harmony between the participants.

He went on to say that the concept for the camp stemmed from the project supporting women from all sectors of society. We hosted men and women members of local councils from Bani Naim and Saeer, for example, Gheith says, which left a huge impact on the participants, the most significant which was the demand for a larger womens quota in local councils and in decision-making positions. He said this was a huge success for the gender defenders and will have an impact in the future through more efforts to support women. The women were encouraged to run in the upcoming elections and to have a bigger presence in them, which Gheith says was the biggest success of the camp.

A wall mural for womens participation in political life

Intern and volunteer with the gender defenders Afaf Faroun who is now a member of the Ezzariyeh local council southeast of Jerusalem led -- along with two youth leaders -- initiatives that aimed at promoting womens participation in political life. In the beginning we attended training on gender issues and on womens political participation. This was followed by educational seminars at Birzeit and Al Quds-Abu Dis Universities held by activists Najwa Odeh and Fatah Revolutionary Council member Salwa Hbeib. There were also four social accountability meetings held in four Jerusalem suburbs: Biddu, Bir Nabala, Anata and Ezzariyeh, Faroun said.

The most prominent initiative

Still, Faroun says the most prominent initiative was the wall mural on womens participation in local council elections. We drew a mural at the entrance to the town, in a place where everyone could see it, she said. It had a huge impact on the committee, helping us to develop our own capabilities.

Empowering women and building capacities

Faroun believes these initiatives are extremely important, saying they promoted our role as advocates and defenders of social justice. She says this is apparent from how enthusiastic youths were to get involved in the process of supporting womens participation in political life on equal ground with men. She said the fact that she also benefited from the initiative as a trainer was testament to its success. I learned so much from training sessions held after the election nominations. I became aware of a lot of things I had no idea about before. The empowerment aspect comes from the fact that women and can have a choice in playing an important role in their communities as long as they receive training to deal with problems that might come up, Faroun says, citing issues such as male domination and oppression and undermining womens capabilities as a few.

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