Influential social and political leaders with youth activists from the districts of Jerusalem, Nablus, Hebron, Rafah and Khan Younis who participated in MIFTAH’s Weekend Solutions workshops on women’s political participation in local governance through promoting gender equality, said the meetings were some of the most important and vital meetings they had ever participated in. They said the discussions enhanced their knowledge and expertise, resulting in creative initiatives that support the promotion of women and youth participation in decision-making.
The Weekend Solutions workshops were held in partnership with the GIZ through the “ “Enhancing Gender Equality and promote Women Participation in local Governance in West Bank including east Jerusalem and Gaza Strip” as part of the GIZ regional Program for “Empowering Women in Decision Making”, which is funded by BMZ.
These influential leaders and youth activists, who were engaged in the Weekend Solution workshops, were recently targeted by MIFTAH to advocate for gender issues, known as “Gender Defenders”, aimed at leading a social movement towards promoting women and youth participation in public life.
One of the leaders from Nablus, Arij Khalili said that the workshops were “important and vital because they gave us an opportunity for direct communication and supplied us with mechanisms for formulating plans and initiatives with the younger generation. We learned how they think and therefore encouraged their participation and the participation of women in decision-making centers,” Khalili said. “I do hope that these initiatives are taken into consideration and implemented by the participants’ factions and parties,” she added.
Birzeit University student Ala’ Barhum was part of the “Youth Quota” initiative. Ala’ says she hopes this initiative will promote the role of both male and female youth in decision-making positions at all levels, which she noted must be the next step after the workshops. “There needs to be continuity of MIFTAH’s support in terms of the targeted youth and women,” she added.
The initiative “Student to Student” was another important initiative resulting from the Weekend Solutions workshops in Jerusalem. Birzeit University sociology student Mahed Jamhour said this was an initiative that should be implemented by students in the cultural, media and art fields such as writing articles, having a book reading or producing a YouTube film for the other students. “The role of youth could be addressed and highlighted using these ideas.”
The workshops, says Mahed, were extremely beneficial because the younger participants gained knowledge and information from the older generation, especially in regards to political participation and gender.
Bani Naim town council member Khalil Othman from the Hebron district said that given Hebron’s tribal character, double the effort must be exerted in order to make an impact, especially given the subject matters of the workshops. “They focused on marginalized groups such as women and youth,” he said, noting that broaching such subjects was more of an issue in a place like Hebron. “This is the first time I participate in workshops of this caliber,” Othman says. “I have attended human rights workshops before, but what MIFTAH offered was completely different in terms of how the facilitators managed the discussions and the method in which the issues were presented.”
Hebron University social science student Lina Baltaji said this was the first time she had participated in workshops that dealt with such in-depth social issues such as the participation of youth and women, the tribal character of Hebron and alignments within society. From these discussions, Baltaji said, the participants were able to extract ideas and devise initiatives on these issues and present them to society in new and more appropriate ways.”
Director of the public relations department in the Dura Municipality Abbas Masalmeh noted that diagnosing the problem leads to a better and deeper understanding of it. This, he maintains, is what MIFTAH’s workshops achieved. “We acquired very valuable information in terms of zeroing in on the problems in the Hebron district and how to deal with them as a municipality,” he said. “I can say that we are going to be more active in holding awareness activities.” He added that, “The workshops provided us with the main key to opening the door to and dealing with social alignments”.
Bilal Mansour, from the “Wifaq Association” in the Gaza Strip worked with his group on an initiative to revive the role of women in local councils. He says the workshops allowed him the chance to learn up close about the role of women in local councils, which is contrary to what he took away from similar workshops by other institutions. “The choice of the target sector – young men and women – was a very good choice” Mansour maintained. “This sector needs continuous attention.” He also said that the promise of support for these initiatives has given them even more hope that they will succeed.
Musallam Najjar the person behind the concept of the Gaza-based “Brilliant Future Association” said the workshops were ‘qualitative and unique” in terms of subject matter and timing. “This is a time when women have not assumed their true role or the status they deserve, first because women marginalize their own role and second, because decision-makers marginalize it.” His group chose an initiative based on women’s right to accountability and access to the Abassan Municipality budget. “Our choice for this initiative stemmed from the fact that women are completely absented and given no role whatsoever. Hence, we hope that these workshops will contribute to promoting the role of women, involving them in public life and enhancing the development of their capabilities and competencies.”
Lawyer, trainer and human rights activist Karem Nashwan said the positive and unique aspect of MIFTAH’s workshops is that they incorporated the gender issue in municipalities and targeted marginalized sectors unrelated to local councils or municipalities. “The workshops ended with the participants agreeing on four initiatives to be implemented in each district, all of which are related to women’s participation and inclusion in budgets, municipal plans and projects. They also focus on promoting means of communication with parties interested in and concerned with women’s issues, integration and needs.”