International Women’s Day: A Palestinian Woman Caught Between Traditions and Independence

 

Every year on March 8th, the world recognizes International Women's Day, which represents the achievements of women and the opportunities they seek to accomplish. This day encourages us to look at women in Palestinian society as a whole and in particular, the challenges and the unusual circumstances Palestinian women face, as well as their involvement in important projects. To women, this day remains a focal point of interest due to its role, position and importance in society.

Despite the social and cultural challenges Palestinian women face, prominent Palestinian women continue to pave the way and to prove their importance to society. In an interview with the COGAT website, Rima Jaradat, a Palestinian women's rights activist said, “Palestinian women are developing and progressing academically in all fields, and this is reflected in their thinking and their importance in society. This is reflected in the recent increase in educated women and activities, reaching a larger number of achievements."

Women account for half of the Palestinian population, however in spite of their growing numbers in the workforce, their presence is still considerably lower when compared to that of men, whilst the percentage of working class women does not exceed 14 percent.

Rima Jaradat stated, “The main challenges that Palestinian women face are the lack of job opportunities, and the lack of awareness which stems from too few activists who can direct their attention to the field of women’s rights...Palestinian women have many unique characteristics, however, they require support and a lending hand.”

Jaradat commented on the subject of work in Israel, and said, “Many women want to work in Israel. However, Israeli leaders and Palestinian traditions prevent them from doing so since these women must pass through crossings alongside men. For this reason we call upon the State of Israel to establish passageways that would be used by women only… and to also alleviate work opportunities given. Ultimately, we want to work and live in unison, in hopes that there will be peace.”

 

 A significant portion of women do not fill the traditional role that is required in the Palestinian community, as in most Arab communities. The role of women tends to range in childbirth to housekeeping and marriage. However, many of these women have broken social normalities and have excelled in their field of work—there are countless examples of accomplishments fulfilled by Palestinian women in fields such as politics, which conveys an important message towards humanity. Recently, Abla Jaber surfaced in the television program “Amir al-Sharaa” (Prince of Poets). She stated in one of her interviews, “I want the singing to be a message of fellowship and peace. Art alone can make life more beautiful, even on the surface.”

Similarly, Palestinian academic Dr. Zina Munir Barakat, completed her doctorate specializing in Pluralism at the University of Friedrich Schiller in Germany.

It should also be noted that Hanan Alhroob won the title of “Best Teacher of 2016” because of her inventive curriculum which distances children from violent incitement.  

 

Some are exposed to ongoing violence, and many Palestinian women and youth still suffer from domestic violence. A lot of them prefer to remain silent because domestic violence and common practices prevent them from reaching out for help. Some refuse to accept the same reality and they escape by finding refuge from whoever will lend them a helping hand. Nevertheless, weakness and violence have made some of them more powerful as a result of a harsh reality, and developed them into mature, independent women. Anisa Eiad is an example of this—she is an extraordinary Palestinian woman, raising three children and working double time after her husband left her and emigrated abroad, refusing to rely on other people and provided for her children in order for her children to live a dignified life. She has worked in the Civil Administration for decades.

Women are the heart and soul of society, and even more so, they are the foundation of each generation—a strong community is filled with strong women. If women do not receive the respect they deserve, the community cannot move forward. Women are not only half of the population, but are man’s equal in all aspects. If the role of Palestinian women in society is ignored, it would be impossible to bring about change in Palestinian society...

Happy International Women’s Day!