8th of March marks International Women’s Day, a day that hopes to promote the work and contributions of women from all over the world. It is a day where people around the globe celebrate the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. Furthermore, it is an opportunity to highlight their struggle for justice, equality and elimination of discrimination in all fields.
Haifa Ansari, a Lawyer from East Jerusalem spoke about the struggles Palestinian women experience from education to work she stated, “International Women’s Day is different for Palestinian women. Palestinian women are mothers, sisters, prisoners and wives but living under occupation. The occupation has affected Palestinian women’s lives in every possible way. Every day brings a new struggle.” At the beginning of her day she wakes up and thinks about what happened to her husband, brother or son, how to take her child to school, will it be safe on the road, will the school be open when she gets there.
The restriction of movement and occupation has meant many Palestinian women do not finish their education as Ansari stated, “The conflict is everywhere and it is inescapable. Families are scared that something will happen to their daughters so they stop them from going to school. Work is also a big problem for women, as they don’t feel safe going from one place to another. I believe that each day Palestinian women should be honoured because of the occupation they are living through.”
International Women’s Day provides an opportunity to become aware of what Palestinian women endure in their lives. It is a day to listen and share their stories, and to become active in eliminating the abuse and oppression they face.
Palestinian women are part of the national struggle to liberate Palestine from Israeli occupation and they play a central role in Palestinian society. Refa Mustafa, director of a Women’s Programme Centre from Ramallah states, “International Women’s Day is very important to me as a Palestinian because of the strength and dignity I feel when I join women around the world and hear their experiences. Women from all over struggle against oppression and exploitation, this makes me feel strongly about claiming my rights and land stolen from Israel. The occupation has resulted in the destruction of Palestinian rights and the confiscation of land and the displacement of the indigenous population. However, under occupation Palestinian women have a responsibility to the community, which is to struggle and resist against the occupation. Palestinian women participate in building and protecting Palestinian society from the social, economic, psychological and political level.
Palestinians living in the diaspora are far from each other and this has had a negative impact on the body and soul, yet despite this fragmentation of our nation, and all the obstacles we face, we continue to fight for our land, freedom and liberation.”
Palestinian women are exposed to daily Israeli occupation, repressive measures, including the kidnapping and detention of more than 15,00 women since 1967. The Israeli occupation has also led to crimes against humanity against Palestinian mothers. Between 2000-2008, 69 babies were born at checkpoints, out of which, 35 babies and 5 of the mothers died.
It must be emphatically stressed that the daily experiences Palestinian women face must not be forgotten nor neglected. Although this day only comes once a year this doesn’t mean that suffering of Palestinian women, or women around the world has halted. Palestinian women have been suffering from Israeli oppression for 68 years and it has only been perpetuating.
Iman Zubeidi, administrative assistant and translator from Ramallah further reminded, “as a Palestinian woman, I do not feel that this day differs from any other day here in Palestine. Most institutions do not have any sort of activities or the likes to celebrate women. Living under Israel’s occupation I have noticed that Israel equally mistreats men, women, and children, there is no difference between them. We are all deprived of our basic human rights, simply for being Palestinian.”
We must continue to call for the protection of Palestinian women’s human rights, promote their right to live in dignity and call on the international community to end Israel’s illegal occupation, which undoubtedly remains at the core to many of the problems Palestinian women face.