Monday, 22 July. 2024
Your Key to Palestine
The Palestinian Initiatives for The Promotoion of Global Dialogue and Democracy

Ramallah – MIFTAH and the General Union of Palestinian Women (GUPW), in partnership with the General Union of Jordanian Women held a two-day regional conference in Amman, Jordan on October 5-6, 2015 on the occasion of the 15th anniversary since the issuance of Security Council Resolution 1325. The meeting called on all women at all levels to participate in decision-making in national, regional and international organizations and bodies to prevent and resolve conflicts.

Participants included representatives from women’s coalitions and organizations from six Arab countries: Palestine, Jordan, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Egypt.

The conference ended with several recommendations, most importantly strengthening the women’s rights networks in the Arab world and expanding their framework of action whereby Arab women refugee issues are put on their agendas; for these networks to be a joint platform for exchange of experiences and for regional pressure on refugee issues. This includes choosing refugee women as representatives to fully and accurately reflect their issues.

The conference also called for coordination at the highest levels between the Arab League and women’s networks, namely the Arab Regional Network on Women, Peace and Security led by KARAMA.

The conference called for concerted efforts to implement the resolution alongside other related resolutions and agreements to achieve peace and security for women and girls. In particular, the CEDAW agreement of 1979 was specified in addition to investing in other international agreements pertaining to conflicts such as the Arms Trade Treaty of the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs which entered into force in December 2014.

At the level of governments and decision makers in Arab countries, the participants called for adopting a national plan to put Resolution 1325 into action and to recruit the human and financial resources necessary for this.

The participants also agreed to broaden the scope of action on the resolution to include other sectors such as youth, political parties and civil society human rights organizations, in addition to promoting coordination between Arab and international women’s coalitions and organizations as a means of pressure on their governments.

MIFTAH’s CEO, Dr. Lily Feidy opened the conference by saying that it was the fruit of MIFTAH and GUPW’s efforts, expressing hope that it was “a step in the right direction towards protecting Arab women in refugee camps and holding accountable those parties that forced them into a life of refuge and displacement, into the sea, raped and traded and made into victims”.

Palestinian Minister of Women’s Affairs, Dr. Haifa El Agha then spoke about the suffering of Palestinian women in Jerusalem due to Israel’s measures such as ID revocation, restrictions on work and movement and family reunification.

On her part, Head of GUPW and head of the 1325 Coalition, Intisar Al-Wazeer said "the resolution came up against obstacles in Palestine because of Israel’s aggressive stances and its targeting of Palestinian women in particular”.

President of the Jordanian Women’s Union Nuha Mayaata maintained that Jordanian civil society "seeks to empower women and guarantee their participation at all levels to achieve sustainable development for Arab women in general and Palestinian and Syrian women and those in conflict areas in particular”.

Dr. Khleif Al Khawaldeh, Minister of Public Sector Development closed the conference first session by expressing his hope that the conference would result in practical recommendations that would be translated into programs and plans for achieving its goals.

The first session entitled: “The Arab Woman and Resolution 1325 – national plans and visions” was chaired by Mrs. Lana Ghawi, Gender Director at the Arab Renaissance for Democracy and Development (ARDD) Legal Aid. The session included seven speakers who spoke about their countries’ experiences. The session began with Rima Nazzal, representative of the GUPW, who presented the Palestinian experience in addressing Resolution 1325 through forming the national coalition to implement the resolution and to adopt a national plan aimed at the participation of various sectors in its implementation. She also touched on the issues of accountability, protection, prevention and empowerment of the coalition.

MIFTAH representative Najwa Yaghi then spoke about the importance of developing questionnaires to document human rights violations against women and girls mentioned in Resolution 1325 as part of the Palestinian vision. She said it was imperative to develop indicators through a participatory approach with civil society organizations and national coalitions with supervision from human rights organizations. Yaghi also showcased statistics from the campaign to document violations, which was developed and tested through partnership with UNFPA and implemented through the OXFAM-funded project “Institutionalization of Resolution 1325 to achieve peace and security for Palestinian women”. These included statistics on violations against women in Jerusalem and the Jordan Valley. She said a high percentage of these women were subject to various forms of violence, such as physical assault, humiliation, land confiscation, denial of basic services in addition to psychological violence.

This was followed by a presentation from Safia Trabelsi, Director of the Women, Children and Family Department in the League of Arab States, on the regional work plan of the League, which was approved by the Arab foreign ministers last month. The plan focuses on involving women in decision-making, shielding them from conflicts and violence, protecting them in conflict zones and relief and rescue in addition to an emergency committee that meets when situations escalate against women.

Shatha Naji, president of the Iraqi-based Women for Peace Organization then presented the Iraqi experience in adopting a national strategy to improve women’s situations in-line with Resolution 1325. Naji said the work of women’s organizations in Iraq faces many difficulties given Iraq’s unique case and the displacement, hunger, killing and rape they suffer.

Dr. Salma Nims, Secretary General of the Jordanian National Commission for Women, spoke about the challenges facing the committee, most importantly getting other parties to participate, obtaining resources and securing a genuine political will.

Lubna Shakir, from the Egyptian Women’s Union said that in its new constitution, Egypt was sure to point to the need for fair representation of women in parliament, to endorse equality between men and women, support the concept of citizenship and reaffirm the empowerment of women.

The session ended with a paper presented by Jumana Merhi, Director of the Arab Institute for Human Rights in Lebanon. She said the most pressing challenges facing Lebanese women’s organizations are the weakness in political will and the lack of awareness about the resolution to vast sectors in Lebanon.

The second session of day one was moderated by Mrs. Firyal Abdel Rahman, a member of GUPW’s general board. The session revolved around the repercussions of social and political transformations on Palestinian women in refugee camps and was opened with a speech by Abla Abu Elbeh, Secretary General of the Jordanian Democratic People’s party. Abu Elbeh spoke about women in Jordan’s refugee camps, saying there were a number of organizations that worked in the camps and with women’s affairs in particular.

Member of the GUPW General Secretariat, Sawsan Shunnar presented, on behalf of Amal Hamad, on the situation of refugees in Palestine, in the Gaza Strip in particular. She said the political and economic situation in Gaza had increased the level of violence against women in all its forms.

Rania Suleiman presented on behalf of Amneh Jibril, member of the GUPW General Secretariat, on the reality of Palestinian women in camps in Lebanon, whose hardships have been compounded because of the refugee influx and the overextended capabilities of the UN to absorb them.

Another presentation was given by Asma Kilani, board of directors’ member of the Women’s Affairs Technical Committee. She presented on behalf of Intisar Mari’ from the Bisan Institute, on Palestinian women in refugee camps in Syria. She said women in shelter centers suffered an increase in divorce rates, abandonment by their husbands and children, early marriage, domestic violence, violence in schools and sexual harassment.

In her presentation entitled “Women and Refuge” member of the General Union of Syrian Women executive office, Alya Hitlani said Syrian women were suffering from poverty, destitution, exposure to assault, physical and moral violence, violations to their honor and dignity and exploitation of their extenuating circumstances, especially by ISIS and the extremist Islamic groups.

Furthermore, Amal Agha of the Palestinian Women Union presented an updated paper from one of the sessions on Palestinian refugees in Egypt.

The closing session discussed the obstacles to implementing Resolution 1325 and was moderated by Sama Aweidah, Director of the Women’s Studies Center in Jerusalem. The participants spoke at length about the obstacles to implementing the resolution, concluding that these obstacles are due to loopholes in the resolution’s text, such as its generality. They pointed out that it did not include any clear and direct article pertaining to refugees caused by “occupation” and refugees caused by “international conflicts”, in addition to the absence of binding mechanisms, timetables and tools of accountability for its violators.

The second day of the conference was opened with a session on Resolution 1325 and human rights in Palestine. Head of the office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in the occupied Palestinian territories, James Turpin spoke about the importance of the resolution in improving the reality of women in Palestine, commending Palestinian women’s rights organizations which he said contributed to conveying the true picture of conflict’s impact on women through their annual reports. He pointed to the need for bettering the skills of these organizations in documenting the reality of women, declaring the High Commissioner’s office willingness to help in this.

Khadijeh Zahran from the Independent Commission for Human Rights then gave a detailed presentation on the discrimination faced by Palestinian women refugees in UNRWA’s system, most importantly in registration, documentation, food distribution, education, health, and physical security and safety.

Amal Khreisheh, Director of the Palestinian Working Women’s Society for Development talked about the issues of protection and accountability in Resolution 1325, concluding that only with political will could accountability be used for the sake of justice. The session, which was moderated by Maysoun Qawasmi, was wrapped up with a paper presented by Amneh Helweh, member of the Arab Regional Network on Women, Peace and Security led by KARAMA on women Peace and Security on the Arab strategy for implementing 1325. She said the strategy was to end violence against women and promote political participation and the contribution of women in building peace and security in addition to protecting women.

Session two, chaired by Muna Khalili, member of the GUPW, focused on the general framework of the international advocacy and lobbying campaign for refugee women. The participants agreed that documentation was the necessary tool and that this needed serious study before it is implemented so as to understand the goal behind the process of documentation. Tools of accountability must also be considered through pressuring governments to use documents that could be presented to the International Criminal court to hold Israel accountable.

The participants also proposed the development of a just definition of a Palestinian refugee and preparation for a symposium on women, peace and security, on the sidelines of the Human Rights Council in 2016 in coordination with the women, family and children’s department of the Arab League.

Director of the women, children and family department in the Arab League, Safia Trabelsi maintained that the importance of this conference was that it promoted Arab efforts towards women’s issues, confirming that the Arab League would adopt these kinds of initiatives that aim at leaving a tangible impact.

Shatha Naji, president of the “Women for Peace” organization in Iraq, said she hoped to unite Arab women’s efforts in order to spare Arab women, namely refugees, from the woes of war and political conflicts.

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