Palestine 12.8. – 10.10.14 – The first week in a foreign country

Elena Policante, young woman volunteer from Horyzon Switzerland (YMCA/YWCA Switzerland). Elena comes from Switzerland and is volunteering with the YWCA and YMCA movement in Palestine as part of a three month programme.

I think the first week in a foreign country is always special. You have to get used to many things like: language, culture, driving habits, temperatures and of course a lot of new people.

My first week was really diversified and interesting (maybe a little bit too much), which ended in a bad headache in the middle of the second week. But this is a luxury problem and I don’t want to complain about.

Except from a few questions and vicious looks, we didn’t have any problems at the airport. The flat was small but really comfortable. Who could complain if the supermarket, which is open until 1 pm., is right next to his house? ;) We were recognized as the “new neighbours” at our first walk through Beit Sahour.

Beit Sahour13.8

Ibrahim from the Joint Advocacy Initiative (JAI) showed us the office and drove us through Beit Sahour afterwards. He showed us the Alternative International Centre (AIC), the Alternative Tourist Group (ATG) and a house that got hit by a bomb from the Hamas.



We had already made the most important purchases in the evening and could thus enjoy a good breakfast on the second morning already. We walked to the JAI office, where we discussed our plans with Nidal. After that I went with Ibrahim to the YMCA, where I was scheduled throughout the week at the Rehabilitation Programme (REHAB). They introduced me to many different people and I could already accompany one of the field workers to four different clients. It was the first time I saw an Israeli watchtower and smelled the stink of the chemical water.

aida camo


At 8.30 am I started my day at the YMCA. I was able to accompany another field worker. It was my second time at the Aida Camp and I saw a black watchtower. Tower

It was burnt and destroyed by children from the camp. Afterwards we went do the Deheishah Camp. My head was totally full with new pictures and impressions. In the evening we went to the AIC and watched “Tears of Gaza”, a really impressive film!


Today, we did a little bit of tourism. At 9am we took the Taxi and drove to the Herodium, Salomons Pools and the Gate of Saint George. Afterwards we walked through Bethlehem and tasted some local delights including an array of various types of Hummus, Olives, Pita bread, Salad and other things. We also went to the Stars&Bucks, which is an amusing and delicious imitation of the well-known Starbucks. At the evening we went to the Sports Center to watch the final of a family soccer tournament. There were a lot of people around and even though we didn’t understand everything, it was really funny.


Today, I accompanied another field worker we went to a family in which the 14 year old son got shot by an Israeli soldier. Even though I didn’t understand a word, all the feelings in the room were really intense.

At the evening Markus and I went to the Singer Café in Beit Sahour and drank a Chai Latte and a Lemon Mint Juice. This is a really recommendable place; a good spot to debrief and reflect on the days events. The first week in Beit Sahour had already passed by.


I tried to sleep in but it didn’t work. I woke up at 8am because of the traffic and the sun. I went to the office. A driver brought us to the YWCA of Palestine in East-Jerusalem. We had a meeting with Mira, GS of the YWCA and Mayadah, Office Manager about the UNSCR 1325 conference in the end of September. After three hours of talking we went to the old city of Jerusalem. In the evening we went to the AIC, there was a lecture from Nurit Peled-Elhanan on the topic of “Palestinians in Israeli school books”. My head almost exploded with all the information and the realization of the level of propaganda but it was really interesting.


In the afternoon I accompanied one of the field workers into a village, which lies in between three settlements. Afterwards we went to the Al Azza Camp (the third Camp in one week). At the evening I got a bad headache. I wrote letters and lay around, hoping the headache would disappear. The next few days I spent in my bed, because of the headache.
I already saw a lot of things in those two weeks. There will still be a lot more to see in the next three months. Next week we will go to Jericho with the JAI office. A bit vacation =)

I think it’s important to take sufficient time to digest the information and always debrief with someone close.


The Gift of Education

By Mariam William John Bangafu, young woman from the YWCA of South Sudan.

My name is Mariam William John Bangafu and was born in Khartoum, Sudan in 1990. I finished my primary school there and completed my secondary education in Uganda. Now I am sitting the exam for the South Sudan School Certificate but I am finding it difficult to get to the school campus. This is mainly because I fell pregnant, which has really upset my family and they are very angry with me. That’s all I can say. I am now a member of the YWCA and it is helping me to achieve my dreams.

 Our Visit to Bangasu, South Sudan


Mariam William John Bangafu

My first trip to Bangasu Payma was to a village called Burezigbo. It was wonderful moment; we met with other YWCA women who had come from Tanzania and Switzerland. The purpose of the meeting was to share best practice, challenges and familiarise one another with eachother’s  work. In fact I learnt many different things such as how to develop confidence and be strong as a woman in front of the community and how to communicate and promote our messages. One of the main objectives of the YWCA is to build and develop women’s capacity as decision makers in the community. We also have a very clear focus on youth as a critical population group. If I have to go and help women at Burezigbo I would like to give them the best gift, the gift of education.

Nothing is so marvellous than to travel to different places and get to know the challenges and common threads faced by women and youth. We had the opportunity to visit Nzara County and the first person to welcome us was the Commissioner! He spoke to us and encouraged the women to be active members in the community at decision making levels and mobilise the young women to be independent.

The YWCA women in Nzara have various amazing activities such as having their own plot of land for agriculture and delivering awareness programmes on HIV and AIDS.

However, Nzara women of YWCA have their own challenges- no office for women to carry out their activities and no training space. Despite this, they still continue as best they can. What I found quite interesting was that young men in the village have begun to realise the importance of the empowerment of women and they are giving them support and seeing the positive impact of staying school to reduce poverty.

Celebrating father of the Nation, Nelson ‘Madiba’ Mandela

By Kgothatso Mokoena, World YWCA Programme Associate, writes below on the life of  the First Black South African President Nelson Mandela and the father of the Great Nation of South Africa, Kgothatso’s native land.

1918 – Born in the Eastern Cape

Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela

He was born in 1918 into the Xhosa-speaking Thembu people in Umtata in the Eastern Cape of South Africa, Often called by his clan name – “Madiba”.

Born Rolihlahla Dalibhunga, he was given his English name, Nelson, by a teacher at his school.

His father, a Counsellor to the Thembu royal family, died when Nelson Mandela was nine, and he was placed in the care of the acting regent of the Thembu people, Chief Jongintaba Dalindyebo.

1943 – Joined African National Congress

In 1941, aged 23, he ran away from an arranged marriage and went to Johannesburg, and this is where he started his political Journey. Two years later, Nelson, completed his Law degree in Witswaterand University and opened a law practice in Johannesburg with his partner, Oliver Tambo. It is during all this that he was exposed to liberal, radical and Africanist influence. His passion for politics was highly influenced by the state of racism and discrimination at the time. The same year, he joined the African National Congress (ANC) and later co-founded the ANC Youth League.

He married his first wife, Evelyn Mase, in 1944. They were divorced in 1958 after having four children.

1956 – Charged with high treason, but charges dropped

Together, Mr. Mandela and Mr. Tambo campaigned against apartheid, the system devised by the all-white National Party which oppressed the black majority, then later on , early in 1956, Mr. Mandela was charged with high treason, along with 155 other activists, but the charges against him were dropped after a four-year trial. His Resistance to apartheid grew, as he mainly stood against the new Pass Laws, which dictated where black people were allowed to live and work.

In 1958, Mr. Mandela married Winnie Madikizela, who was later to take an active role in the campaign to free her husband from prison

1962 – Arrested, convicted of sabotage, sentenced to five years in prison

He was eventually arrested and charged with sabotage and attempting to violently overthrow the government

Sadness and anger clouded the streets of Soweto, Alexander and Diepkloof as the news spread that the Youth leader has been arrested once again and this time taken to a place where no one know . ‘Khulul ‘u Mandela’ (Release Mandela) song was then sang every time a police van passed by, this broth no good but more torture and deaths to more 80 activists at the time.

1964 – Charged again, sentenced to life

Tension with the apartheid regime grew, and soared to new heights in 1960 when 69 black people were shot dead by police in the Sharpeville massacre. Later on, in winter of 1964 Mr. Mandela was charged again, to Life sentence, sent to isolation where he spend many painful years in hard labor.

In the space of 12 months between 1968 and 1969, Mr. Mandela’s mother died and his eldest son was killed in a car crash but he was not allowed to attend the funerals.

While in jail on Robben Island in the 1980s, Mr. Mandela contracted tuberculosis and he had to negotiate in order to receive treatment. “Only free men can negotiate. Prisoners cannot enter into contracts”.

He remained in prison on Robben Island for 18 years before being transferred to Pollsmoor Prison on the mainland in 1982.

As Mr. Mandela and other ANC leaders languished in prison or lived in exile, the youths in black townships did their best to fight white minority rule which resulted in hundreds of them being killed and may injured and thousand forced out of school. With one voice, the ANC led by the exiled Mr. Tambo, launched an international campaign against apartheid but ingeniously decided to focus it on one cause and one person – the demand to release Mr. Mandela.

“In prison, you come face to face with time. There is nothing more terrifying”

Nelson Mandela

1990 – Freed from prison

The pressure produced results, and in 1990, after spending 27 years in prison, President FW de Klerk lifted the ban on the ANC. Mr. Mandela was released from prison and talks on forming a new multi-racial democracy for South Africa began

Later in 1992 Mr. Mandela separated from his wife, Winnie

1993 – Wins Nobel Peace Prize

In December 1993, Mr. Mandela and Mr. de Klerk were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

1994 – Elected first black president

Though was still young at the time, I could remember the songs and ululates as Mr. Mandela become the country’s first black president four years later and to play a leading role in the drive for peace in other spheres of conflict. During his term, he entrusted his deputy, Thabo Mbeki, with the day-to-day business of the government, while he concentrated on the ceremonial duties of a leader, building a new international image of South Africa.

1999 – Steps down as leader

Mr. Mandela stepped down from Presidency and declared he wanted to continue serving ‘His’ people in other ways. After his official retirement, his public appearances were mostly connected with the work of the Mandela Foundation, a charitable fund that he founded (In 2003-2006 I was one of the programme co-coordinators in Matjhabeng local Municipality).

The programme was on Youth programmes, the main focus was on Youth development, Child and family welfare, orphans and vulnerable children, children heading households and children affected and infected by HIV and AIDS. Within this programmes we developed youth in life skills (Computer, Business, Accounting and handwork etc.). Most of our beneficiaries have shared their stories and will continue to do so as they grow. Nelson Mandela had a great passion for young women development and empowerment, and because of this his foundation introduced a programme called “Youth, Change Agents”, this mainly focused on young women’s leadership.

Since stepping down as president in 1999, Mr Mandela became South Africa’s high-profile ambassador, campaigning against HIV and AIDS and helping to secure his country’s right to host the 2010 football World Cup.

2001 – Diagnosed with prostate cancer

Mr. Mandela married Graca Machel on his 80th birthday (widow to the late President of Mozambique Mr. Samora Machel) and was later diagnosed with prostate cancer and survived. Even though he had serious health issues, he spent time negotiating for peace in other African countries including DRC and Burundi amongst others.

2004 – Retires from public life

At the age of 85 he retired from his public life and shared a wish to spend time with his family and friends and just engaged when attention was really needed. “Don’t call me, I’ll call you,” he warned anyone thinking of inviting him to future engagements.

2005 – Announces his son has died of an HIV-related illness

It was time when taboos still highly surrounded the AIDS epidemic, Mr Mandela announced that his son had died of AIDS, and urged South Africans to talk about AIDS ” to make it appear like a normal illness”.

2007 – Forms The Elders group

On his 89th birthday, after the death of his surviving son Makgatho, he formed The Elders: a group of leading world figures, to offer their expertise and guidance “to tackle some of the world’s toughest problems”.

2010 – Appears at closing ceremony of World Cup

Tata’s wish came true, he wanted to see the world cup in African soil, and was blessed as it was hosted by his beloved country, South Africa, and appeared to greet the guest and fellow country men.

The country continues to celebrate him and later 2012 the first South African banknotes featuring his face went into circulation.

In the news recently, it has been reported that Nelson Mandela has not been well, and indeed it is true, he has been treated in hospital for the past two years, and in 2011 he was diagnosed with abdominal problems and later went for Cholecystectomy (removal of gall bladder).

But in recent months he has been troubled repeatedly by a lung infection. Today marks the 22nd day in hospital since June 8th, 2013 the whole world is in prayer for his speedy recovery and good wishes for the family.

Nelson Mandela’s life is a true model of leadership; his life has given me a life long lesson of humanity. His charisma, self-deprecating sense of humour and lack of bitterness over his harsh treatment, will continue to motivate me.

South Africans have been holding an all-night prayer vigil for former President Nelson Mandela, outside his former home in Soweto and the hospital in Pretoria where the World YWCA General Secretary Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda and YWCA-SA led in prayers.

I wish Nelson ‘Tata’ Mandela and the family all the best, and would like to call upon the politicians and media to show respect by dedicating this time to the family. I also wish to encourage South Africans to continue to celebrate a life well lived, a life shared by all for all, a life of a father who’s gift to us worth more than Gold.

Nelson Mandela

Speaking from the dock in the Rivonia court room, Mr. Mandela used the stand to convey his beliefs about democracy, freedom and equality.

“I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities,” he said.

“It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

Stories from Women in Syria

By Jo Allebone World YWCA Short-term Advocacy Intern, Jo attended the 23rd Session of the Human Rights Council  (HRC) in Geneva, Switzerland. (Original source of blog:

This morning we attended the last Women’s Rights Caucus for the Human Rights Council. The Caucus is co-organised by the World YWCA, World Women’s Summit Foundation (WWSF) and Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF). The meeting provided an opportunity for members to hear from women who are working in NGOs in Syria and Jordan on what is ‘really’ happening to women and girls in refugee settings in these countries.

Jo Allebone

Jo Allebone

This is an important issue for the World YWCA as it has member associations in Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine and Egypt – all of which are affected by and connected to the Syrian conflict. Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda, World YWCA General Secretary welcomed us to the meeting, she’s always so powerful when she speaks and brings everyone right back to the heart of why we’re here in Geneva.She reminded us that we need to make sure there’s a connection between what’s being talked about at the HRC and the realities of what women refugees are experiencing.

We know that the HRC will look at adopting the resolution on violence against women, and she challenged us to consider how today’s discussion can inform our broader engagement and advocacy at the HRC. She also noted that we need an intergenerational focus in our dialogue, from girls and young women as refugees, to women and mothers, and older women. The first guest speaker was Ms Fardous Albahra, from the Syrian Women’s League (SWL), who reminded us that what’s happening in Syria is not an armed conflict, it’s a revolution to reach democracy and justice.

The regimes have been focusing on different strategies to crack down on the revolution. Many Syrian women from a range of social classes have been raped and imprisoned, but there has been a particular focus on disadvantaged women. The aim of such tactics are to break the human spirit, disempower communities, and ultimately deter people from continuing their participation on the revolution.

She shared with us an insight into politics in Syria. Unsurprisingly, very few women are involved in Syrian politics. Fewer still are part of the women’s movement.

The majority of the women involved in Syrian politics don’t support the SWL’s call for women to have the right to pass their nationality on to their children. It was in fact the democratic secular men in parliament who supported it. The SWL hopes that the revolution will end soon, and that a secular and democratic government will encourage women’s participation in decision-making, politics and public life. They called for the international community to oppose human rights violations, and to support their long-term strategy and constitution for women to become a part of political life in Syria.

Next we heard from Ms Sabah Al Hallak, also a representative from the SWL who provided a brief overview of how the conflict in Syria began, and reminded us that women are disproportionately affected during times of conflict.

She said that women in Syria are calling for peace, and the SWL is doing whatever it can to seek women’s involvement in the political process, and demand women’s rights in the next government’s agenda. She noted that the media has played a big role in enforcing negative framing of women, and in exaggerating claims about violations towards women.

Unfortunately I didn’t have time to chat to her about this (she was whisked off to her next speaking engagement), but I presume that the government and media are closely aligned and work together to perpetuate a sense of fear among Syrian people.

Ms Dana Abu Sham, from the Arab Women Organisation of Jordan (AWOJ) reminded us that domestic violence is seen as a part of some Syrian cultures, particularly rural areas, and that this was occurring prior to the revolution.

She spoke of the AWOJ’s work outside of refugee camps, and the current challenges around data collection, and so was reluctant to make concrete statements about which issues were most impacting on women.

She shared a very different perspective on the way that men, particularly Arab men view women from Syria, and women from Jordan.

“Syrian women have a reputation of being fair-skinned, very beautiful, knowing how to please men (both physically and emotionally), and being sweet-talkers.

Jordanian women on the other hand are not as fair-skinned, they are more aggressive and they will stand up to a man”, she said.

It’s not uncommon for wealthy Arab men to fly into Syria or Jordan for one week, pay a small dowry to the girl’s impoverished family, marry her, and after a week of pleasure leave her forever – with nothing.

When child brides get married and do not register their marriages in host communities, then it is considered illegal in that country. Moreover if she were to have a baby, then automatically that child is considered illegitimate. The ramifications on her rights and the rights of the child are overwhelming. So what can women’s organisations in Geneva do? We were urged to continue our work on women’s rights especially in refugee settings, protecting women from all forms of violence, particularly in conflict situations, and to advocate for women to be involved in peace negotiations.

Heartbreaking stories, statistics, and truths about children in conflict

By Jo Allebone World YWCA Short-term Advocacy Intern, Jo is currently attending the 23rd Session of the Human Rights Council  (HRC) in Geneva, Switzerland. (Original source of blog:

Today we attended an event on on the human rights of children during conflict, sponsored by The Worldwide Movement for Children’s Rights.

His Excellency Jean-Marc Hoscheit, Permanent Representative of Luxembourg opened by saying that without the very real possiblity of punishment, there is no way of preventing children’s rights from being violated during conflict situations.

He said that in terms of doing justice for children who’s rights have been violated during conflict, punishing the perpetrator is but a fragment of the picture.

More importantly it’s about acknowledging that their childhood has been completely destroyed, and that they require ongoing support to be able to reintegrate back into the community. They need physical rehabilitation, psychological support, and education.

More than 3 million children in Syria suffer from the consequences of the ongoing conflict. Many  have died trying to find hospitals or shelter.

A whole generation of Syrian children have been traumatised, raped, mutilated, and murdered. There are frequent reports of them being used as human shields, as well as trained as combatants and messengers during armed conflict.

Mr Hoscheit reiterated Luxembourg’s commitment to ending the bloodshed in Syria, and called on the international community to respect international agreements and honour their duties.

Mr Victor Ullom, International Commission of Inquiry on Syria shared with us some horrendous statistics from his most recent report on kidnapping, torture, children being killed due to being suspected combatants or spies, and children being forced to watch their parents being killed. In 2013 alone, over 40 child combatants have been killed according to his reports.

However, it’s highly likely that these numbers are underrepresented due to the difficulties of accessing data and reporting of such incidences. The Syrian Government doesn’t let the Committee conduct any investigations inside the country which definitely restricts their efforts. They do the best they can by talking to NGOs, people exiting the country, and they use Skype to interview people inside the country.

Next on the panel was powerful and passionate Justice Renate Winter from the CRC Committee, who began with another heart-breaking statistic: there are more than 380 thousand child soldiers around the world.


Justice Winter recounted how she has seen many child soldiers in her life as a judge, and not one of them isn’t traumatised.

She talked about many children between the ages of 4 and 10 years of age who know nothing but war and violence. Sadly, she said that she sees that the average age of child soldiers aren’t increasing, they’re decreasing.

When chatting with a war lord in Sierra Leone, he told her that the problem is that there’s no cheaper weapon than a child – they don’t eat much, they are “stupid” and will do things that an adult soldier would never do, they are readily available, and they are easy to intimidate.

He told her that when she came to him with an equal alternative that he would stop.

And then another harrowing story. A war lord had sent 200 children to cross a field that he knew was littered with land mines. Once the children had crossed (there were few left at the end), the war lord then sent his precious adult soldiers safely across the field.

She said one of the major problems with the international justice system is that there isn’t a single government in the world that would pay for the years of rehabilitation needed to provide the victims and witnesses of these crimes with the kind of care that they need in order to heal and reintegrate into the community.

There was some discussion with panelists and delegates about prevention – how can you stop this from happening? While there are some efforts to educate and work with some military groups regarding the use of child soldiers and the impact of conflict on children, the outlook is pretty bleak.

According to Justice Winter, there is no way of stopping it, and that the best we can do is better deal with adult perpetrators and children (be they victims, witnesses or perpetrators) in international and national courts. Her belief is that no child should be convicted of war crimes, and that adults should feel the full force of the law.

I left this session with a heavy heart.

I’m glad it’s Friday so I have time to digest all of this, and reflect on another intense week of learning.

¿Cómo impacta el conflicto armado los derechos de las mujeres jóvenes en Colombia? Algunas recomendaciones a Naciones Unidas y al gobierno colombiano

Magda López-Cárdenas

Magda López-Cárdenas

Magda López-Cárdenas, YWCA de Colombia. Investigadora del Cinep/ Programa por la Paz Colombia

En el presente artículo voy a hacer una panorámica general sobre la violencia política y social contra las niñas y mujeres jóvenes en Colombia en el marco del conflicto armado, deteniéndome en el desplazamiento forzado, la violencia sexual y el reclutamiento y vinculación por parte de actores armados  y no armados. Al final, me enfocaré en dirigir unas recomendaciones a Naciones Unidas y al Gobierno colombiano.

Son muchas las arbitrariedades que siguen ocurriendo en medio de la guerra a pesar de los esfuerzos institucionales y de la sociedad civil, el Derecho Internacional Humanitario y las denuncias que se logran amplificar por el avance en las tecnologías de la información y la comunicación. Es claro que la separación entre combatientes y no combatientes es apenas una aspiración con resultados relativos, pues en la carrera por ganar la guerra, el caos reina y los derechos de la población civil quedan a merced de los actores armados.

En Colombia en el marco del conflicto armado no resuelto que lleva 60 años, las mujeres se encuentran menos afectadas por homicidios individuales y secuestros, pero sí constituyen la mayoría de víctimas de delitos como el desplazamiento forzado, la violencia sexual, ciertos tipos de amenazas, desaparición,  reclutamiento y utilización forzada por parte de los actores armados.

Esta violencia ejercida sobre las mujeres, ocurre como consecuencia de habitar territorios afectados por el conflicto armado, pertenecer a organizaciones de mujeres, de derechos humanos, iniciativas de paz o de reclamación de tierras, por su parentesco o vínculo afectivo con algún actor del conflicto, por la defensa de sus familiares frente a amenazas o por poner resistencia al reclutamiento forzado de sus hijos, cónyuges o familiares

Sobre la situación expuesta y con el fin de fortalecer la protección de las niñas y las mujeres jóvenes en el actual contexto colombiano de conflicto armado, me permito dirigir algunas recomendaciones:

A Naciones Unidas

–          Continuar en su tarea de seguimiento a acciones de violencia en contra la mujer que se dan en Colombia en particular en el marco del conflicto armado, independientemente del actor que cometa los abusos

–          Reconocer la inclusión de las nuevas organizaciones paramilitares en los informes y su participación en violencia contra las mujeres en medio del conflicto armado

–          Reafirmar las ventajas humanitarias de una salida negociada al conflicto armado que permita dar fin a las hostilidades y evitar futuras víctimas

–          Exigir que los crímenes de violencia sexual queden excluidos de las disposiciones de amnistía en los procesos de paz

–          Reafirmar la necesidad de participación de las mujeres en la siguiente fase del proceso de paz, de acuerdo con la Resolución 1325 del Consejo de Seguridad de Naciones Unidas

–          Fortalecer la presencia de los programas humanitarios y de desarrollo que atienden y previenen situaciones de violencia contra la mujer en zonas afectadas por el conflicto

–          Exigir a  todas las partes del conflicto armado, la adopción inmediata de medidas para proteger a los civiles, incluidas las mujeres y las niñas, de todas las formas de violencia sexual

Al Gobierno Nacional

–          Formular e implementar una Política integral de paz que no reduzca el tema de la negociación a la conversación con la guerrilla

–          En el marco del actual proceso de paz con las FARC, generar acuerdos viables que no menoscaben los derechos de las mujeres víctimas

–          Garantizar la participación de las mujeres en la tercera fase del proceso de paz de las FARC, lo cual no sucedió, en las fases 1 y 2

–           Fortalecer e implementar un mecanismo eficaz de denuncia, monitoreo y respuesta frente a violencia contra las mujeres y las niñas, sobre todo en territorios donde las autoridades pueden estar presionadas o infiltradas por actores armados

–          Eximir , los casos de violencia sexual de las disposiciones de amnistía para grupos armados

     A los actores armados:

–          Sacar los cuerpos de las mujeres de la guerra, implementar medidas apropiadas para proteger a los civiles, incluidas las mujeres y las niñas, de todas las formas de violencia sexual como disciplina militar, el cumplimiento del principio de responsabilidad del mando y el adiestramiento de las tropas bajo y la prohibición categórica de todas las formas de violencia sexual contra los civiles (Resolución 1820 de 2008)

Para terminar quisiera expresar, que si bien estamos en un momento importante en el camino de la paz, la violencia contra las niñas y las mujeres no cesará con un acuerdo, sino hasta que las niñas y las mujeres sean incluidas en los procesos de negociación y construcción de paz y sean tratadas como iguales en sus hogares, comunidades, sitios de trabajo y como ciudadanas cuyos derechos deben ser respetados.

Palestina, aún esperanzas a pesar de las adversidades

Por Silvanna Ayaipoma de Mattos, Miembro de la Junta Directiva de la YWCA Mundial 2012 – 2015   

Participé en el programa de plantación de olivos que la Iniciativa de Activismo Conjunto (Joint Advocacy Initiative – JAI) de la YMCA de Jerusalem del Este y la YWCA de Palestina)

Silvanna Ayaipoma de Mattos

Silvanna Ayaipoma de Mattos

lleva a cabo desde hace 6 años dentro de la campaña “Mantener Viva la Esperanza” (Keep Hope Alive). Este programa de 10 días de duración incluyó la plantación de 1,200 olivos, visitas turísticas a Belén, Jerusalem, Hebrón y Ramallah además de visitas a organizaciones que trabajan pro Palestina, así como la proyección de videos sobre el tema y talleres con voluntarios y activistas.

Nos visitaron palestinos que habían estado en la cárcel debido a las “ detenciones administrativas“, una argucia  legal de los israelitas que les permite detener y encarcelar  hasta por 6 meses a cualquier palestino sin existir justificación alguna y los llevan a cárceles en Israel . Pero estos 6 meses pueden ser renovados automáticamente por otros 6 meses y así indefinidamente. Israel justifica cualquier acción “por razones de seguridad “. Mientras que en cualquier cárcel de un país los reclusos tienen un régimen de visitas, para los palestinos esto no existe puesto que sus familiares no pueden entrar a Israel y sus abogados tampoco. Aquí a los palestinos los someten a la ley militar, sin embargo, a los israelitas a la ley civil.

Mientras vivo en un país libre pienso ¿cómo los territorios palestinos no son parte de Israel pero están bajo jurisdicción israelí? Los cierres, la situación de sitio, los toques de queda y los más de 500 controles militares (checkpoints) han afectado al acceso de los palestinos a la salud, a la educación y al trabajo y han afectado también al derecho a la libertad de movimiento y al derecho a la propiedad. Han causado un colapso en la economía palestina, aumento del desempleo y la pobreza, disminución de las actividades comerciales lo que ha provocado un aumento en la dependencia de la ayuda humanitaria,  haciendo que la mayoría de los palestinos no sean capaces de llevar algo parecido a una vida normal, teniendo que llevar una vida diaria llena de dificultades, privaciones y afrentas a la dignidad humana.

Pienso en el muro del apartheid de 6 metros de alto construido por Israel que serpentea el territorio palestino. Para construir el muro, el gobierno israelí ha ordenado vastas expropiaciones de tierra y ha destruido casas, tiendas, escuelas, redes de suministro de agua y tierras  de cultivo. El muro ha sido declarado ilegal  en el 2004 por la Corte Internacional de Justicia de La Haya, el muro afecta a los palestinos y es un castigo colectivo que está prohibido por la Convención de Ginebra de 1949. Israel justifica el muro como medida para evitar los ataques en su contra.  Pero ¿quién ataca? Israel continuamente invade tierras palestinas y construye asentamientos de colonos que son los que atacan a los granjeros, también  destruye árboles de olivo que son el sustento de la economía palestina.

La población palestina de Cisjordania no tiene acceso a Jerusalem, por eso los líderes responsables del programa no nos pudieron a compañar en la visita a esta ciudad. Sólo quienes consiguen permisos especiales pueden entrar a Jerusalem a través de uno de los cuatro controles militares que la rodean. Los líderes se  aseguraron de proveernos un bus que no tuviera placa de Cisjordania ya que tienen prohibido de circular por Jerusalem (esto incluye a las ambulancias que al llegar al control militar deben trasladar al paciente a una ambulancia con placa israelí en el caso que el paciente tenga permiso para entrar). De ahí que el acceso a la salud es restringido por lo que muchas mujeres palestinas han dado a luz cerca de los controles militares.

Hay aldeas que parecen cárceles pues están rodeadas por el muro que los ha dejado sin hospitales, clínicas, ni tiendas  por lo que tienen que cruzar un control militar que les puede tomar mínimo una hora. Si es que se va en auto, al regresar deben vaciarlo completamente, pasar cada objeto por los rayos X, luego se revisa el auto manualmente y con ayuda  de perros que  lo olfatean; si se trae algún líquido, lo analizan en el laboratorio. Hay familias que quedaron separadas por el muro, familias cuyas tierras quedaron al otro lado del muro  las cuales no pueden sembrarlas sin un permiso especial que muchas veces es denegado. Y si Israel encuentra tierras sin cultivar las confisca y construye colonias israelitas.

Al quedarse los palestinos sin tierras que cultivar han tenido que buscar trabajo en Israel, esperando horas en el  control militar 300 (llamado Gilo por Israel), teniendo que levantarse a las 3 de la mañana para estar en el control militar a las 4 de la mañana, hacer largas colas , esperar a que salga el sol y pasar por controles estrictos y humillantes.  Los participantes en el programa pedimos de pasar por este control militar que es el más terrible y también vivimos esa experiencia! Luego los palestinos vuelven a casa de noche después de haber pasado nuevamente por el mismo control militar y las mismas humillaciones. Es como ir y volver a una prisión cada día y muchos no tienen otra opción.

Conocimos a un padre de familia que se cansó de no ver a sus hijos  por estar en su casa muy pocas horas a causa del trabajo en Israel y el paso del control militar. Una vez fue detenido administrativamente y permaneció dos años y medio en la cárcel. Al salir de la cárcel decidió no trabajar más para Israel  y se dedicó a la venta ambulatoria de café cerca del control militar que tenía que pasar diariamente. Ahora gana menos pero nos dice que está contento así pues pasa mucho más horas en casa con sus hijos. Su relato nos conmovió… Y ese día vendió muchos vasos de café a nuestro grupo.

Poco a poco estoy superando lo que viví esos días en Palestina, pero pienso en mis amigas/os palestinos que pasan diariamente por violaciones de sus fundamentales derechos humanos.

A través de las atrocidades vistas en relación a la violación de los derechos humanos de los palestinos tengo más conciencia sobre la situación que viven día a día y la esperanza viva que si todos alrededor del mundo fuéramos más solidarios y realizáramos acciones que contribuyan a reivindicar sus derechos otro mundo mejor es posible para ellos. Los invito a apoyar los programas y campañas que realizan la YWCA y YMCA en Palestina y no sólo participando en sus visitas sino también realizando concretas acciones en nuestras YWCA y con nuestro entorno, estimulando el diálogo y la búsqueda de soluciones a esta realidad.