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Groups highlight Palestinian women's struggles on International Women's Day

March 8, 2016 8:40 P.M. (Updated: March 8, 2016 9:50 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- On the occasion of International Women’s Day, international and Palestinian organizations hailed women’s rights’ progress in the occupied West Bank and Gaza on Tuesday, while highlighting continued obstacles to gender equality.

Palestinian human rights organization Al-Haq expressed “its deep appreciation for Palestinian women and their huge and important role as a part of the Palestinian society, and for their sacrifices against the Israeli violations.”

The EU Coordinating Office for Palestinian Police Support (EUPOL COPPS) highlighted the growing representation of women in some parts of the public sphere.

“I am strongly encouraged by the past year's improvements of the promotion of gender equality within the police and justice sector,” EUPOL COPPS head of mission Rodolphe Mauget said. “We have seen unprecedented advancements through the upcoming adoption of a new Gender Strategy for the Palestinian Civil Police and a new Family Protection Unit within the Attorney General's Office.”

Meanwhile, United Nations Coordinator for Humanitarian Aid and Development Robert Piper said in a statement that the UN “salute the Government of Palestine and civil society for their hard work and dedication towards the advancement of women’s rights and empowerment.”

However, the organizations all pointed to the continued impact of Israeli policies on Palestinian women.

The Gaza-based al-Mezan Center for Human Rights said eight Palestinian women and seven girls have been killed by Israeli forces since October. The group added that 118 women were detained during the same time period.

According to prisoners’ rights organization Addameer, 60 Palestinian women were detained in Israeli prisons as of February.

Other issues such as poverty and gender-based violence were highlighted as affecting Palestinian women.

“Insecurity and poverty exacerbate gender discrimination and inequality, and prevent Palestinian women and girls to access equal opportunities,” Piper said. “We strongly believe in the importance of empowerment of Palestinian women to build a strong Palestinian society.”

Piper cited data from the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, which estimated that only 18.8 percent of Palestinian women participated in the workforce in 2015, compared to 72.1 percent of men.

Al-Haq called for a number of changes to improve women’s rights in Palestine, including “enhancing the role of Palestinian women in Palestinian society, especially against Israeli violations,” and for continued efforts to ending gender-based violence and discrimination.

Al-Haq also called on the Palestinian Authority to have a “clear policy” in compliance with international law regarding women’s rights, as well as a 30 percent gender quota to ensure Palestinian women’s political participation.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA) focused specifically on the fate of women journalists, saluting “all women journalists for all their achievements, and dedication in work, despite all socio-economic and political difficulties in Palestine.”

The organization highlighted “the urgent need to eliminate all forms of violations against women journalists, following a significant escalation of violations committed especially by the Israeli Occupation Forces during the recent months of last year, while covering the events of the popular rising across the West Bank.”

MADA added that “women journalists also face violations by Palestinian parties, in addition to discrimination that results in banning them from holding leading roles in media outlets.”

In 2015, Israeli troops injured 30 Palestinians, mostly women, during a peaceful march marking International Women’s Day in the West Bank.
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