IWD 2022 in Gaza: Palestinian Theatre and Arts Week empowers women

March 14, 2022 /

A mixture of drama and poetry adorned the theatre and Grand Hall of the Islamic University of Gaza last week, as Palestinian women’s voices were celebrated at the Palestinian Theatre and Arts Week organised for International Women’s Day 2022.

The ‘Palestinian Theatre and Arts: Women and Inclusive Peace’ initiative was jointly organised by the English Department of the Islamic University of Gaza, the NAWA for Culture and Arts Association, and the Culture for Inclusive and Sustainable Peace Project.

ln his welcome speech Dr Nazmi Al-Masri, Associate Professor of Language at the Islamic University of Gaza asserted the value of theatre and the arts for promoting justice and equality between men and women. Stating that Palestinian men and women alike desperately need to live in peace, Dr Al-Masri commented, ‘we have more than enough conflicts as more than 14 million Palestinians have been struggling for more than a century to live in sustainable, inclusive and just peace’.

Watching the theatrical sketches, the audience was afforded an insight into the lives of women in Gaza: the mother who lost her son, the wife whose husband was arrested, and the grandmother whose house was demolished. The scenes triggered a mixture of emotions – of tragedy and hardship but also happiness, pride, steadfastness and defiance. The audience laughed, cried and applauded the fantastic performances.

Alongside the theatrical activities, students of the Islamic University of Gaza, mostly women, supervised the opening of the exhibition’s corners, which focused on the role of women in poetry, drama and literature in general. One of the corners focused on the inspiring role of Shakespearean literature for raising the Palestinian women’s voice and increasing its strength.

Through many years of illegal Israeli occupation and almost 15 years of living under siege, the week showed that Palestinians in Gaza are as committed as ever to protecting and producing theatre and the arts. Dr Refaat Al-Areer, Professor of English Literature at the Islamic University of Gaza and coordinator of the event remarked, ‘we teach students to be producers of knowledge, literature and art rather than mere consumers’.

Alison Phipps, Professor of Languages and Intercultural Studies at the University of Glasgow also joined the event, wearing an embroidered Palestinian scarf. Phipps praised the power of Palestinian women – ‘we know that you suffered siege, occupation and multiple wars in Palestine over many decades. The world can now learn from you lessons about making sustainable peace’.

Wafaa Abdel-Hadi, a student participating in the exhibition, said, ‘my participation in the event means as it opened the doors to take more effective roles to raise the voice of the Palestinian women’.

The week showed that despite the ongoing siege by Israel, Palestinian women in Gaza remain a creative force. Despite the percentage of Palestinian families in Gaza led by women now reaching 11%, Palestinian women in Gaza are as resilient as ever, and continue to be an inspiration to us all.