Fighting Both Struggles in Palestine


Maas, Kirsten. 1998. “Fighting Both Struggles in Palestine.” Lola Press 1 (8): 44.

Author: Kirsten Maas


Palestinian women were active participants in the struggle for the liberation of the homeland especially during the Intifada. But their contribution started as early as the beginning of the century. In 1921, a group of upper class, urban women - most of them connected to male notables who led the nationalist movement - founded the Palestine Women's Union, concerned mostly with charitable work. Following the mass exodus of Palestinians from what became Israel in 1948, women activists focused on social and charitable work amongst the refugees. The founding of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1964 ushered in a new era for women's activism, but there was no dramatic shift in consciousness of gender issues among women in occupied Palestine until well into the 1980s. Whatever feminist voices might have been raised during the revolutionary struggle in Jordan and Lebanon, and despite the leftist's ideological commitment to the women question", the dominant thesis was that women's liberation would follow national liberation. The General Union of Palestinian Women (GUPW) founded in 1965, was also unwilling to challenge the prevailing ideology of nationalism before feminism. Their leaders related more to their own political faction than to each other. In the 1980s however, a new generation of women activists began to raise feminist issues, including the reform of family law, gender relations within the national movement and the need for better primary health care for women.


Signs that the fate of Palestinian women would be disappointing were visible right from the beginning of the peace negotiations. Whereas the PLO's declaration of independence on 15 November 1988 had clearly stated that `Palestine is a state based on social justice, equality with no discrimination in general rights on the basis of ethnicity, religion, colour or between men and women", the implementation of women's rights seemed to have been postponed by the PLO. When only four women were appointed to the more than three hundred slots on the Technical Committees formed after the 1992 Madrid conference - the beginning of the peace negotiations -- Palestinian women formed a Women's Technical Committee to demand the appointment of more women and gender awareness to govern the work of all committees. Women mobilized again when the first draft of the constitution for the interim period was issued in December 1993 with no full guarantee of gender equality. In January 1994, members of the women's committees, the General Union of Palestinian Women and human rights groups went a step further: an independent "Women's Charter" group was formed to formulate a women's bill of rights, which was presented to the public on 3 August 1994 as "The Principles of Women's Legal Status". Based on the 1988 Palestinian Declaration of Independence, the charter calls for governance based on social justice and equality and the strengthening of the national and social struggle for Palestinian women to obtain equality, political, civil, economic, social and cultural rights. The charter derives much of its authority from various UN conventions, including the UN Convention to end Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). Women continue to be marginalized in the political presentation, specially within the Palestinian Authority. Out of a 22-member cabinet, only one member is a woman. Women constitute only 5.8% of Palestinian Legislative Council and out of the approximately 800 director generals in the various Palestinian Authority ministries there are five women. This has motivated Palestinian women activists to demand a quota of 30% in the forthcoming elections.


Topics: Civil Society, Gender, Women, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Equality/Inequality, Governance, Constitutions, Quotas, Nationalism, Peace Processes, Political Participation, Rights, Women's Rights Regions: MENA, Asia, Middle East Countries: Palestine / Occupied Palestinian Territories

Year: 1998

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