Written by: Wafaa Aruri
I could not sleep last night. Since I became a mother, I have thought a lot about other Palestinian mothers. How can they bear all this loss? What gives them such strength? Whenever my mother asked me to leave my child with her for one night, I answer “I am afraid that she will wake up and not find me next to her then start crying.”
Our current difficult situation coincides with the National Day of Palestinian Women. It comes on the 26th of October every year. This day is dedicated to honouring Palestinian women and remembering the suffering and challenges we live in every day.
Refugee women in camps suffer persecution, discrimination and impoverishment. They live with more suffering and woes than others. They endure poverty, distress, overcrowding and lack of privacy. All these are torments that are added to the sufferings of all Palestinian women who live in different Palestinian cities and villages.
Refugee women in the camps have repeatedly expressed the marginalisation they suffer in terms of opportunities and prospects. The government is almost absent from the women of the camps. Instead of providing them with job opportunities and a decent living, many refugee women work in settlements to provide food without support from the authorities.
The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics reports major violations against women in our society. For example, 58% of currently married or previously married women were subjected to psychological violence from their husbands. This is the most prevalent type of violence existing in our society.
Regarding the level of women’s participation in the labour force, the same report states that only 17% of women are involved in the year 2021. On the other hand, the participation rate of men reached about 69%, which is a significant gap in the opportunities given to women compared to men.
Also, we must recognise that the participation of women in decision-making and leadership positions is still limited and modest compared to men. The data produced by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics for the year 2022 illustrated that women constitute about 25% of the Central Council, 11% of the National Council and 12.5% of the government. Additionally, only one woman occupies the position of governor out of 16 governors and only 2% of the heads of local authorities in Palestine are women.
Women in Palestine have been suffering from occupation and society’s discrimination. The community has not shown mercy to them, nor have the laws nor the outdated customs and traditions done justice to them. This is displayed by the following common sayings:
"I don't want to get married now.”
“Marriage shields you. May God protect you.”
“I don't want to have children now.”
“We want to see our grandchildren.”
“I will complete my education.”
“Girls end up in their husbands’ houses.”
“I want my right of inheritance to open my own business and become independent.”
“We don’t have daughters sharing their fathers’ money with their brothers.”
“I decided to get a divorce.”
“You will become like a piece of chewing gum in people's mouths.”
“My husband hit me.”
“He is a good man but a little nervous, You can't afford to destroy your home.”
And so on…
Society overburdened the woman and robbed her of the right to cry with loss. Is there more pain and a wound to our humanity? What word describes the women of this country and gives them their right? They are glorious. They are the patient. They are the givers with perseverance and are the creators despite all the challenges and adversities.
One unquestionable fact is that women in our country need laws to protect their rights and deal with them as real partners in building society and the state. They should not be treated as the weak spot. With this in mind, the legitimate question is: Why do draft laws for women remain on the Palestinian legislator's table for many years, while other laws that are not of the same importance and necessity bear no more than a stroke of a pen?
This is a question I have...
The opinions expressed in this article are the views of the author and not necessarily the opinion of the Association or donor.