MIFTAH meeting discusses first draft of women's position paper on the political division and their representation in reconciliation meetings
On July 15, MIFTAH held a meeting to showcase the results and recommendations from its study, "The impact and damage of the division on Palestinian women," which was conducted by AWRAD, the Arab Center for Development and Research, and to discuss the first draft of a paper on the position of women towards the political division. This paper was developed by the women's reconciliation shadow committee”WIFAQ” in order to adopt the recommendations of the political and women's elite, who attended the meeting, and agree on a final draft for the position paper. This paper is to be the main pillar through which the shadow committee, which MIFTAH formed with members of the Women's Coalition for Resolution 1325 in Palestine, is to pressure both sides of the division and achieve national reconciliation.
In his presentation during the meeting, Dr. Nader Saeed showcased the most significant recommendations from the study pertaining to security policies between the West Bank and Gaza Strip which have affected public freedoms and social unity, especially in regard to the arrest of political activists and night raids on homes. He pointed out how these affected families and women, therefore resulting in an increase in their roles and responsibilities. He also shed light on the legal and economic damage incurred by women by the inter-Palestinian division.
Dr. Saeed recommended a five-point program to guarantee effective, short and long-term interventions. First: the provision of programs and services as limited interventions that deal with the impacts of the division on women such as family and psychological counseling , economic empowerment for women in addition to legal counseling; second, an in-depth study on the long-term impacts of the division and its relationship to policies and programs; third, a media and awareness-raising campaign to clarify the impacts of the division on women in particular and on the social fabric in general; fourth: efforts to support the participation of women and to merge the women's program and demands of the women's movement for equality in all agreements that lead to reconciliation; fifth: guaranteeing a methodology for human rights and citizenship within the social and political contract between all parties to guarantee a rights-based climate that coincides with achieving equality and justice.
Dr. Saeed also stressed that women's representation in negotiations to end the division is extremely significant given its long-term importance in creating the aspired change. Women leaders who attended the meeting called for women's representation in reconciliation committees to be real and to have a clear women's agenda for creating changes on women's reality at all levels in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Meanwhile, Rima Nazzal presented the position paper on women’s participation in the reconciliation, which she began by pointing to the need for the paper to constantly given recent internal developments, including the possibility of a separation between the West Bank and Gaza. “Women must be part of reconciliation talks between Fatah and Hamas so they can bring their issues to the negotiating table,” she said. “Societal issues necessitate that women are present, not just in number but so that these issues could be resolved and the necessary modifications made to the concept of national unity.”
In her presentation, Nazzal pointed to the institutionalization of the division through laws in the Gaza Strip. She cited several laws pertaining to family, education, health and universities which have made the struggle of women in the West Bank different than its counterpart in Gaza. There is a stagnation in terms of laws pertaining to women, namely the personal status and penal laws, which the PNA has still not passed. She also cited the undeclared aspects of deals where the religious and political institutions collude in support of the division, which leads to a lack of recognition of social differences or minorities such as women, youth and religious minorities. Hence, the cause of women is sacrificed in such deals on the premise that political forces represent them coupled with a lack of understanding of or disregard for social differences, i.e. it is easier just to circumspect women’s issues and rights altogether.
Nazzal proposed round table or shadow committees that discuss sociopolitical issues, also calling for a socio-intellectual agreement and a dialogue between women of varying intellectual and social levels. She said these discussions should propose issues such as laws and the identity of the future political system which represents intellectual identity through a separation of religion and state, because this is the only system capable of safeguarding differences and preserving civic peace.
Nazzal also suggested revoking the mandate given to the current political structure during elections, saying it has not safeguarded diversity or civic peace, held presidential and parliamentary elections, preserved the spirit and letter of the Basic Law or the Palestinian Declaration of Independence, as two referential l solid documents.
Presentations and recommendations
Nazzal’s presentation was followed by several recommendations and presentations such as the need for upholding the right of political parties to participate, make decisions and obtain information; criticism of the absence of freedom of opinion in the Gaza Strip and West Bank in varying degrees; the absence of an agreed upon and detailed social contract as part of a vision on all issues at hand; not linking women’s interests with an end to the division; however, the social contract could be added to the agenda of current discussions on ending the division in order to determine our future as a people and the nature of the political system that will emerge. In this sense, there is a need for a women’s approach proposed by women as a way to kick-off the door of the national dialogue.
Other recommendations include the need for formulating a clear constitution for the state of Palestine; determining and further discussing the concept of interests; working towards real representation of women in any discussions – that is, not just having them at the table, but through issues proposed by women for women; developing a specific vision and demands and pushing for them to be a part of efforts to arrive at conciliatory formulas that contribute to breakthroughs in the role of the women’s movement in ending the division; formulating a strategy for how women can reach decision-making positions and participate in meaningful discussions; working towards rebuilding the institutions of the Palestinian system and the national movement while reiterating adherence to the secular and civic nature of PLO institutions.
The audience’s contributions called for the need to give attention to political developments on the ground and their ramifications on the Palestinian cause and national project; to promote the role of social forces and all components of Palestinian society through including them in the current discussions and expanding the circle of allies.
It should be noted that MIFTAH will organize a similar meeting in the Gaza Strip as soon as a final version is agreed on that expresses the position of women towards the division as a precursor to the practical start of their involvement in official national reconciliation committees and to roundtable discussions with women of different perspectives. The end goal is to develop their social agenda and ultimately reach a Palestinian framework agreed on by all Palestinians expressing the shape and form of their aspired state.