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'My Rights, Our Power' celebrates women's rights at closing event

March 13, 2019 4:41 P.M. (Updated: March 18, 2019 4:28 P.M.)
By: Jennifer Janineh
JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- On the occasion of International Women’s Day, the closing event of the week-long joint campaign entitled “My Rights, Our Power” was organized over the weekend to celebrate women and to raise awareness on women’s fundamental human rights.

The “My Rights, Our Power” closing event took place at Yabous Cultural Center, in East Jerusalem, and celebrated various Palestinian women and their accomplishments using TED-style talks and art performances.

The event commenced by welcoming all guests, including 30 national and international partners of the campaign, and by introducing the program, which consisted of three Palestinian speakers, Claudie Salameh, Aya Khalaf, Ayat Mutair, and three art performances.

Claudie Salameh, who is one of the first female soccer players in Palestine, opened her speech, by stating “Women’s day is every day.” She mentioned the challenges she faced due to the patriarchy in the Palestinian society and the Israeli occupation, stressing, “Get past your fears and you will succeed.”

Salameh also pointed out that since she started 15 years ago, a women’s soccer team, which was back then considered non-existent, is now a certainty in Palestinian sports. She suggested that parents should be the main supporters of their daughters, in order to help them grow in a encouraging and positive environment.

Salameh added that raising awareness and advancing women’s rights “starts from within.”

Aya Khalaf, a Palestinian singer and music teacher, applauded all of the attendees for fighting for women’s rights and said that “women’s rights are a matter of humanity and equality.”

Khalaf went on to talk about her passion for music since a young age, even though it was viewed as an “embarrassment” by her family. She emphasized how important it is for a woman to believe in herself, “When a person believes in themselves, the ones closest to them will believe in them too.”

Khalaf concluded her speech by hoping for an end to the Israeli occupation through music and peace.

Ayat Mutair, a hearing impaired Palestinian who started her own catering business “Sweets Land” in the Gaza Strip, was not able to attend the event due to not obtaining an Israeli-issued exit permit from Gaza to Jerusalem as a result of Israel’s nearly 12-year blockade.

Nonetheless, the organizers of the event had prepared a short video of Mutair’s message to the audience regarding women’s rights. Throughout the video, she talked about challenges she faced as a woman with a hearing impairment and encouraged other women to follow their dreams no matter the obstacle.

In between the three individual speeches, Banat Al-Quds ensemble, The Palestine Circus School, and Al Amal Dance School presented various types of art performances, which included singing, gymnastics, and contemporary dance.

Furthermore, Randa Siniora, Director of the Women's Centre for Legal Aid and Counseling (WCLAC), emphasized her backing of the anticipated adoption of the Family Protection Bill, which she said “All women and young girls deserve to have a law to protect them,” adding “whether in labor or everyday life.”

Siniora pointed out that when it comes to physical and mental abuse, the number of women who remain silent is higher than the ones who speak up, stressing the importance of adopting a law to protect women’s fundamental rights.

According to the Palestine report of the International Men and Gender Equality Survey (IMAGES), nearly one in five Palestinian men (17%) surveyed said they had perpetrated act of physical intimate partner violence against female partners, while 21% of women surveyed reported having experienced such violence.

Advocacy and Communications Officer at UN Women, Eunjin Jeong, told Ma’an, “The purpose of the campaign is to raise awareness about women’s fundamental rights in Palestine,” noting that the “My Rights, Our Power” campaign came about on the discourse of the Family Protection Bill.

She asserted, “This time we have the same goal to advance women’s human rights by letting people know about their right and internalize that knowledge into action.”

Jeong said that the core of the joint campaign “all starts from within,” quoting Claudie Salameh.

Jeong also underlined the fact that more than 30 national and international partners worked together on advancing women’s rights in Palestine since 2018, in order to unite all voices.

The event was concluded by inviting the representatives of the 30 partners of the joint campaign on stage, who then repeated the five key messages, addressing women’s right to a life free of violence, right to achieve justice and seek help in case of violation of such life, as well as the right to equal opportunities and right to make one’s own choices, chanting “My Rights, Our Power.”

The participating organizations of the “My Rights, Our Power” are (in alphabetical order): 17 Palestinian women’s organizations represented by Al-Muntada (coalition), British Consulate-General, Business Women Forum, CARE International, Consulate General of Sweden, Consulate General of Belgium, EU Representative Office, FAO, General Union of Palestinian Women, Government of Japan, CowaterSogema/GROW Project, International Labour Organization, Italian Agency for Development Cooperation, Ma’an TV, MIFTAH, Netherlands Representative Office, Nisaa FM, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Palestinian Working Woman Society for Development, Palestinian Family Planning and Protection Association, Representative Office of Canada, Representative Office of Denmark, SAWA, Sawasya II, Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation, Sports for Life, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, Representative Office of Norway, UNDP, UNESCO, UNFPA, UNICEF, UNOPS, UN Women, Women's Centre for Legal Aid and Counseling, Women’s Studies Center.

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