By Naheel Bazbazat, from the YWCA of Palestine, shares the realities faced by women and girls in Palestine & her experience at CSW.
I work as a women’s rights coordinator at the YWCA of Jerusalem, focusing on delivering awareness campaigns for dropout students and women who have had early marriages, as well as on capacity – building and leadership training for young girls.
Violence against women is a layered issue in the occupied Palestine territory as is the case elsewhere. Palestinian women are often made victims of a traditional; patriarchal structure that devalues their role in society added to this is the stress of living under Israeli occupation: the everyday humiliation, violence, and frustration that leads to increased tensions in the home. Dr. Nadera Shalhoub professor and criminologist at Hebrew university, emphasises how living with the constant anxiety and instability of the occupation affects the lives of women, noting that “domestic violence increases, patriarchal and masculine violence increases and economic violence against women increases”.
Moreover, all aspects of live including health and education worsen, further inhibiting women’s ability to develop socially and economically. Home demolitions are particularly traumatic as this targeting of the home space changes the entire social fabric of the community and shifts relationships within the family, which may leave young women vulnerable to violence. Furthermore, it is important to note that Palestinians are left with less than 22% of historic Palestine, where almost 30% of the population is aged between 15-29 years old, who are and continue to be the direct victims of the occupation.
The YWCA of Palestine clusters all it programmes under four main thematic areas, each thematic area has specific strategic objectives that fulfill its goals and values, and is in line with the overall vision and mission:
- Women’s economic development to empower women to earn a fair and competitive income,
- promoting women’s rights to create spaces for young women in its targeted communities to learn about and advocate for their rights, whether social, economic or political,
- youth leadership training and civic engagement for enabling youth, particularly female youth, to participate in civic life and contribute to build a free and democratic Palestinian society through youth leadership program,
- primary education and cognitive learning for children-to improve inquisitive and play skills.
Through this opportunity to attend the Commission on the Status of Women 2013, I have been able to share the work of the YWCA of Palestine and the realities faced by Palestinian women and girls and therefore raise their voices and demand that Palestine be free, so that women and girls can truly live a life free from violence!
Furthermore, I have developed my knowledge around UNSCR 1325 and CEDAW. It has been a real pleasure and richness to engage politically and gain more skills in lobbying and to advocate for as part of the YWCA delegation at CSW. I have enjoyed meeting all the young women in our movement from around the world and also sharing with them all the issues and the realities in each of our countries. Together we have discussed how we will be leaders in communities.
The most amazing time for me was during the march on International Women’s Day- 8th march 2013; I always attend the march every year in Jerusalem. We work a lot with other women’s organisations and we stand for women rights and demand freedom. This year it’s really different for me being in New York and it was more than an honour to march with all the diverse women gathered and chant through hope and anger- that “Another world is possible, We are Unstoppable”, I believe we can end violence against women. CSW has been such a truly amazing experience in my life which I will share with fellow YWCA members.