Ramallah Ė As a result of intensive consultations with gender units in line-ministries, and in close coordination with the Secretary-General of the Council of Ministers Office, MIFTAH held a policy meeting with line ministries and civil society organizations on developments in the implementation of the ďTAKAMOLď system at the national level. Discussions highlighted the challenges that face relevant institutions in implementing the system. The workshop was part of the ďProtection and Equity from a Gender PerspectiveĒ project, being carried out by MIFTAH in partnership with UNFPA.
Preceding visits to the gender units in the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Social Affairs, Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Women's Affairs, concluded with the following obstacles that hinders the effective implementation of the TAKAMOL system: The lack of preparedness on the part of service-provider institutions in applying the system in terms of human resources and logistics; loopholes and gaps in the system after it was adopted on 10.12.2013, such as the inclusion of cases of battered girls under 18 in the system; and the absence of direct ruling mechanisms of forensic medicine within the system. The different parties brought up immediate needs for raising awareness on the TAKAMOL system through the provision of simplified guidelines for service providers in line-ministries and the need to review and develop the electronic database system in a way that would enable service providers to easily access dates/history through channels by which cases of violence against women (VAW) are treated. Partners further explored similar referral systems applied in other organizations such as UNRWA to link them together towards developing a unified national system. Another identified obstacle was the lack of clarity in implementation, communication and networking mechanisms when applying the system between ministries.
The hearing session, which was held at the Grand Park Hotel in Ramallah last week, was opened with welcoming remarks by Hanan Kaoud, MIFTAH Development Director. In her address, Kaoud cited MIFTAHís efforts in following up the implementation of the TAKAMOL system since it was approved by the Cabinet. The goal of the system was to set ground rules, which would ultimately constitute a national covenant for dealing with battered women through achieving protection and care for women in the health, social and legal sectors. This would also be achieved through establishing foundations that govern a national charter toward professional handling of VAW cases, through protection mechanisms for women in the health, social and the justice sectors. It is as much important to lay the ground rules that govern and clarify the framework for a face-binding professional relationship with female beneficiaries.
The session was moderated by Shatha Odeh, Director General of the Health Work Committees and the expert who contributed to setting down the guidelines for the TAKAMOL system. Odeh emphasized the importance of the workshop, to hear relevant interventions and procedures from representatives of ministries, explore gaps and obstacles and set a plan to enforce the implementation of the system in accordance with agreed outcome recommendations.
Dr. Mohammed Abu Hmeid, Deputy Minister of Social Affairs, reaffirmed that his ministry implements what is required of it. He said their role is to stand by women as a part of the Ministry's duty and not just as a job. Abu Hmeid affirmed that his ministry offers much attention to women and family issues, calling for an analytical study of the reasons behind violence against women in Palestinian society. He pointed out that the roots of this violence are primarily economic.
Abu Hmeid called for a collective plan that considers preventative measures for this problem, stressing on the importance of empowering women economically and promoting their well-being, especially in-light of the increasing percentage of poverty among vulnerable population.
Deputy Minister of Justice, Dr. Ziad Tayyem then stressed on the legal role of the ministry, which considers violence and abuse against women as a crime. He continued that the ministry is currently working to complete a legal guidebook that addresses this issue.
On her part, Lamia Shalaldeh from the Womenís Center for Legal Aid Counseling (WCLAC) called for closing gaps in the current professional coordination procedures between relevant parties, saying it is imperative to realize and appreciate the dangers facing battered women and to know how to deal with the mental state of the victim. She added that mechanisms of protecting women and girls should not be dependent on short-lived rescue, describing the current services provided to these women as partial and simplistic. Shalaldeh cited the case of a woman from Bethlehem who was killed by her husband in spite of the fact that she had gone to more than one party organization to complain about the horrible violence she was being subjected to.
Shalaldeh also called for enacting preventive laws to punish perpetrators and to set down clear policies on security and justice services that should be offered to the victims.
Dr. Khuloud Sayyed and Maha Awwad from the Ministry of Health affirmed the central role their ministry plays in offering the appropriate health services to battered women. Dr. Sayyed said her ministry is the first place battered women turn to, citing the various types of verbal, physical and sexual violence.
Deputy Secretary-General of the Council of Ministers, Aqab Abdel Samad said in his presentation that some ministries play a vital role in dealing with violence such as the ministries of social affairs, health and interior, the later through its civil police. He also cited the Council's decision in 2013 to approve the TAKAMOL system, saying he was keen on defining enforcing mechanisms that ensure its application.
Meanwhile, Sharif Jaradat, Director General of the Cabinet Affairs, called for ratifying a law to protect women from violence and to hold a broader workshop in which all government and civil society institutions participate. He also urged Muslim imams to take on more of a guidance role in pushing for a halt to violence against women.
Furthermore, Dr. Mahmoud Salah Eddin, Director of the Research, Planning and Development Administration in the Palestinian Civil Police - Ministry of Interior, said the civil police are willing to do whatever it takes to carry out procedures to combat violence against women and to cooperate with all parties involved.
Salah Eddin called on the media and institutions that combat violence against women, to maintain accuracy when showcasing findings and statistics on victims of violence.
Wafaí Muammar, Director of the Juvenile Department (PCP) warned against the problems that arise in dealing with violence against women from some institutions and commissions in this field, which tend to incite against the husband. She cited the same case of the woman from Bethlehem who was killed by her husband, saying exercising incitement, even if unaware, and not trying to reach out to the husband, can eventually lead to a crime.
Meanwhile, Palestinian Legislative Council member and member of the founding committee of the Arab Forum for Population and Development, Sahar Qawasmi, called for the need to establish a regulatory body that coordinates relationships between the various parties that combat violence against women. She also said it was important to revive the counseling units with those charged with violence. Qawasmi do not encourage tribal male intervention in this regard, saying it is more ideal for the law to take its course against perpetrators.
Outcomes and actions
One of the most significant outcomes of the workshop is to promote actions at the level of the government. This was clearly represented in an immediate call for a follow-up session made by the Deputy Minister of Women's Affairs, Bassam Khatib to discuss the means by which the TAKAMOL system will be enforced. The mentioned meeting, held days after the current hearing session, concluded with the formation of a small technical committee responsible for implementing and ensuring the enforcement of the TAKAMOL system. The committee comprises ministries of health, social affairs, women affairs and civil police, with MIFTAH in the capacity of oversight role. It also stipulated support for offering training to service providers and raising awareness about the system in the field in addition to the role of the media. The committee will work to enforce the immediate implementation of the system within a period of three months. This will be a trial period to later gauge the needs of the ministries in order for the systemís rescue plan to succeed.
The participants endorsed a number of recommendations, the most important of which are as follows: a call to build the capacities of the technical teams that deal with cases of VAW; adopt a comprehensive awareness program on violence which would also include spreading awareness among men in addition to women; a call to the Cabinet to pass a law to protect women from violence; to urge Muslim imams to take on more of a guidance and awareness roles in this regard; automate information on women protection against violence - the importance of building a database so that the necessary evaluation process could be carried out at a later stage; the need to review services provided by civil society institutions - assessment of these services in terms of quality and feasibility; take the Gaza Strip into consideration in all activities, plans and programs for combatting violence against women - a call on all partners to work in Gaza; and train cadres capable of dealing with cases of VAW.