Swedish Minister discusses the role of Palestinian women in society with partner organisations

We had all taken refuge from the heat of the sun in the cool Palestinian stone walled center of Women´s Study Center (WSC). The meeting in Nablus had been arranged upon the request of Gunilla Carlsson, the Swedish Minister of International Development Cooperation.  The topic at hand: Palestinian women: what are their situation, what are their obstacles in daily lif, their roles in society and their dreams?

The young women taking part in the advanced training on human rights and democracy organized by the Palestinian Center for Peace and Democracy (PCPD) were eager to discuss with the Minister first. In the morning they had been mounting a public campaign in Nablus about women´s rights to equal pay and had gotten positive response from the community. They spoke of the obstacles of getting a job and how they are discriminated against in the labor market and treated unfairly due to prevailing norms of being less capable than men. However, they all agreed that their situations now are better than when their mothers were young as there are more jobs for women and they can leave home to study and work.

When asked “Would you like to become a politician like me?“, all the young women expressed a desire to become politically involved, not on the national but on municipal level. All of them however, said that they would prefer to be independent, as the current parties all are male dominated and include women just for show. When asked about the training and what happens after the project one girl said: “It´s a personal change we go through which lasts even when the project is over. The training starts with ourselves to give us tools to change our communities.” Another one followed: “Politics is important in our lives and women have to take a bigger role and initiative and that will change the community.”

The young women´s attitudes on the role of their own agency in the political sphere and voicing their rights and needs publicly came across very strongly and when asked about their dreams many said they wanted to stay in Nablus and change the situation there (also stating the situation as becoming more and more difficult). This positive attitude toward the role of women´s political participation was reiterated by the older generation of women representing WSC and the bereaved women´s roles as community leaders after receiving support was discussed and exemplified. However, the position of the older women was that younger women are worse of today and one of the major reasons was stated as religious fundamentalism. They argued that fundamentalism is stopping women from participation in the public sphere and it diminishes women´s rights into a bargaining tool that can be set aside when more pressing issues have to be solved. The young women themselves clearly withheld that it is culture and cultural norms rather than religion that stand in their way.

In sum, the meeting was very successful, the Minister was very moved by the WSC representatives and asked engaged questions on the possibilities for the young women to pursue their political dreams. And the partners thanked her for listening to their voices.

Anna Björkman 

 

 

 

What happens in Azerbaijan …

Loreen vann! Visst känns det lite mäktigt!? Som en vinst för Kvinna till Kvinna, för våra samarbetsorganisationer, för kvinnors och tjejers rättigheter Azerbajdzjan. Det känns speciellt att befinna sig just här, just nu. Som att Eurovision i Azerbajdzjan med hjälp av Loreen och hennes engagemang blev till något betydelsefullt.

Vi har tillbringat de senaste dagarna i ett Baku där regimen inte sparat på krutet för att få staden att framstå som modern och glamorös. Arenan, nya vägar, flådiga byggnader. Allting välputsat. Fem miljarder kronor gick väl kalaset på, eller hur det nu var. Trots uppmärksamheten från medier runtom Europa och den internationella närvaron har regimen slagit hårt mot försök till protester och den artist som gjort mest för att väcka uppmärksamhet för den verkliga situationen i landet, svenska Loreen, har misstänkliggjorts och kritiserats. Allt detta vet ni kanske redan.

De senaste dagarna när vi träffat våra samarbetsorganisationer har vi förstås pratat om situationen för dem just nu men också om vad som kommer sen, härefter. Där finns Pervana som på grund av sina möten med Loreen tror sig kunna få svårigheter i relationen till myndigheterna framöver, Shahla som är rädd för att repressalier väntar de som nu visat framfötterna och retat upp regimen, att snaran kommer dras åt och Sajida som väntar sig att situationen snart bara går tillbaka till det normala.

Samtidigt är alla överens om att vi vill mer än att återgå till det ”normala”. De flesta vi pratar med återkommer till frågan om vikten av att inte släppa taget nu, för internationella aktörer att fortsätta bry sig, vilket Kvinna till Kvinna redan betonat. Visa att även fortsättningsvis kommer det som händer i Azerbajdzjan inte stanna där – att de som kämpar för ett annat Azerbajdzjan har vårt stöd även i framtiden. De behöver det; det är sannerligen en diger uppgift. Som en representant för det symboliska kvinnoparlamentet i Azerbajdzjan sa apropå Bakus förvandling de senaste månaderna: ”Regimen har förändrat den här staden, men vi ska förändra det här landet!”.

Katarina Härröd

“Make an input – make a change” part 2

Brussels with Malin

Kvinna till Kvinna and partner organizations representatives met with Malin Björk, policy adviser at European Parliament  on 23rd May 2012.

Malin Björk is policy adviser for Women’s Rights and Gender Equality.  In addition, she is part of the Women’s Rights and Gender Equality Committee and member of the European United Left / Nordic Green Left  – European Parliament Group.

Overall the meeting was very useful, and to the point – she gave us some really good examples and ideas how to reach out to the Parliament. Along with the fact that she was very transparent and feminist herself, this meeting was a really great place to get information how women organizations can directly communicate with the parliament, and get their support.

Some of the ways she suggested are: to send written questions, but also to try to meet joint parliamentary committees when they are coming to the country, as well as inviting some MP’s to attend our activities. In her opinion it is not so hard to get the signatures and support from the MP’s, as long as we are clear with our demands, provide them with all relevant information and find person among the MP’s willing to advocate for our issues.

With regards to the progress reports, the Parliament’s role is to give comments to the progress report. The Committee for Women’s Rights and Gender Equality is open to read inputs from the organizations in the field, but, she emphasized, that the European Commissions in the countries are key actor – it is more important to send our inputs to them, as they are they are the ones writing reports, and the Parliament is commenting on a final product. Therefore her suggestion is that in this process we communicate with our Commissions the best we can.

Representatives of the partner organizations also had numerous questions all related to their field of work. Therefore at this meeting we got good insight into the policies on women rights recently adopted by the Parliament, and we got much clearer picture on the mandate and roles of the European governmental bodies.

For us, who were present, all of this information’s were more than useful. We are sure we will use it well to make long lasting change! Thank you Malin!

Elmaja and Maja

Also read: “Make an input – make a change” part 1

“Make an input – make a change” part 1

Brussels

For the fourth year in a row, during this week, representatives of Kvinna till Kvinna and ten partner organizations from Balkan are visiting Brussels regarding this year Progress report input/consultations between EC Enlargement DG and representatives from international and non-governmental organizations.

Based on our areas of expertise and after more than 15 years of support and cooperation in the Balkans, Kvinna till Kvinna created space and opportunities for advocacy trough strengthened focus as a political partner to our partner organizations combined with the increased presence and importance of EU in the region (both for funding and as an external actor with influence to change on national level in the countries where we work).

Also, the accession process provides entry points for us and our partner organizations to use to try and create a change. The purpose of the increased efforts are to improve capacity for partner organizations and Kvinna till Kvinna to lobby the EU both on policy and financing, influence the EU to include and fund women’s organizations to a higher degree and improved capacity for partner organizations to access EU funds.

Kvinna till Kvinna partner organisations representatives are from:

Albania, AWEN-Albanian Women Empowerment Network and “VATRA”

Bosnia and Herzegovina, “Foundation Cure” and ”Helsinski Citizens’ Assembly”

Kosovo, Kosovo Gender Studies Center and Network of Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian Women’s

Montenegro, SOS Hotline Niksic

Serbia, “Fenomena”, “Novi Sad Lezbian Organisation” – NLO, Women Space and Roma Women’s Network

 

Besides EC delegation this year, for the first time we are targeting EU Parliament, Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality.

Also, we are meeting with two big peace and gender networks/organizations, EPLO and European Women’s Lobby.

We will inform you about each of the meetings soon,

Keep in touch

Elmaja and Maja

The bitter taste of the Egyptian Elections

Azza Kamal på Tahrirtorget.
Azza Kamel. Foto: Lena Wallquist


I am sitting in the living room of Azza Kamel, a long time activist and human rights defender. It feels like the taste of the traditional Egyptian food she serves me fades away while we are talking about tomorrow. Some call it Election Day others prefer to sight deeply and keep silent.

I ask her; well Azza after all the struggle and endless work to regain some of the light that was shed upon the Egyptian people January 2011, what are your feeling for tomorrow? She looks at me with deep concern and says, “I am confused and certainly not happy. But what can we do if not continue?

What I admire though is the strength and stubbornness that shines through Azza’s eyes but yet also tiredness and less enthusiasm.

As field representative for Kvinna till Kvinna in Egypt, it feels like I am in a vacuum of constant paradoxes. I know that not even my interpretation makes sense but I guess that this is the situation right now. It’s not exciting to witness the elections because it’s not the historical event we all were hoping for but yet the door is still half open at the far end.

During one year I have been following women’s organizations and their struggle to be noticed, take part and demand the inclusion of women in the transitional period. No democracy without justice, no justice without equality, was the motto and in a way still it is even though it looks dark.

A year has passed and for women it has meant being depraved of the small positive stops they took to advance women’s legal and human rights. The quota system was cancelled by the military council which guaranteed at least 70 seats for women in the parliament. Today there are only 11 women occupying 2 % of the seats. Moreover, women were subjected to so called virginity test, something that actually is considered as sexual violence.  Today officers and doctors in charge of conducting these horrible violations walk free and by military court decision off the hook.

Basically women have been shut of from participating and the scarier situation right now is the talks in the parliament lead by conservative religious figures to cancel the law that criminalizes Female Genital Mutilation as well as lowering the age limit for girls to get married.

Most presidential candidates do not work in favor for women. In fact the two most famous ones are for a radicalization of Islam which directly in real life means fewer opportunities for women to be protected by legislation as well as possibility to take part in public life.

These days journalist are chasing the “real” opinion and seem to still do what they always done, ask the people on the street, the taxi drivers or the man on the street with his small business trying to survive the day. Today I have been thinking a lot who are the real people?  Is it the Azza Kamels, the taxi drivers, the religious leaders, the military or people outside the big cities? It neither of them but all of them together. So while journalists chase the real Egyptian opinion, I am holding my breath and hope to exhale soon again because I really want to feel the real taste of Azza‘s food!

Saba Nowzari

Remembering…

Today, May 15, marks the Nakba (catastrophe in Arabic) in Palestine. It is the day that thousands of Palestinians left their homes, for the violence or the fear of the violence that was sweeping across villages as Israel took over the land. 2012 marks the 64th year that countless Palestinians have been displaced from their homes.

Last year I went to a conference hosted by a Kvinna partner organization, Ma´an, where Safa Abu Rabia spoke about Bedouin women´s memories of the Nakba and their place in history. She had to make a concerted effort to find their voices, as a gender blind-look would have easily made them invisible. They told her how they remember land and landscape and the expulsion from their land. Their land, she explained – as well as remembering how they cared for it, how they moved across it – is integral to their identity.

And yet, now, there is a law in Israel since 2011 against remembering! More specifically it says that organizations that receive state funding cannot commemorate – that means schools, possibly community centers, and so on. Without remembering your past, how can you know who you are. This year, students who hosted an event at Tel Aviv University to remember were not allowed to hold it on campus and are being forced to cover security expenses – unlike other student-hosted events.

But remembering is still visible in our public spaces. Poster and leaflets appear on notice boards.  Statements are circulated. Facebook and twitter explode with commentary. Patriarchal norms and even legal measures cannot get rid of a memory – especially when that memory is still so real and forms a cornerstone in the identity of thousands of people.

Linda Öhman