One of the resilient women maintaining hope in Gaza. Photo: Kvinna till Kvinna/ Magnea Marinosdottir
She is standing outside under the blue sky with five of her kids in one of the neighbourhoods hardest hit in the war last summer. Compared to last time I was in Gaza four months ago, there are little signs of change: some piles of rubbles with rubble removal on-going, some piles of sand and gravel, and small groups of men working on reconstructing roads and infrastructure I assume. Yet very few are repairing their own apartments or houses.
She agrees to show me inside the 4-5 square meter space where she lives with her husband and the children. The mattresses they sleep on are piled up by one wall while rest of their belongings are up against the other walls including a small gas stove where she cooks meals for the family. The room they are living in is the only part of their house which was left standing after the war when they were forced to flee first to a hospital that was used as a shelter until it was bombed and then to a UNWRA school. They were offered to move into a container. Instead, they decided to move back to what is remaining of their home – one little room – hoping they can soon begin to rebuild their house.
Instead of moving to a container, the family decided to stay in what is left of their own home. Photo: Kvinna till Kvinna/ Magnea Marinosdottir
They are still waiting for support. They get coupons to purchase food as they lost their livestock during the war and are not in a position to make any income to purchase a new one. Their situation is same or similar to the situation of many others who lost their home and livelihood during the war.
The spirit of this mother and her cheerful kids is something I hope they manage to maintain until they will receive the required assistance so they can have a future.
During the bombings against Gaza in the summer of 2014, Kvinna till Kvinnas partner organisation Aisha decided to gather their staff for an integrated security and wellbeing training. They felt they needed to strengthen themselves in order to be able to continue helping others, and they used the IS method that they learnt from Kvinna till Kvinna.
I am on my way to Gaza, getting back to our office in Jerusalem by the end of the week. While I am away, the President of the occupied State of Palestine, Mr. Mahmoud Abbas, is traveling to Sweden to meet with Prime Minister Stefan Löfven and Foreign Minister Wallström. The reason for this visit is the recognition of Palestine as a State by Sweden of 30 October 2014. The recognition followed steps taken by the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) towards reinforcing its claim for statehood, most importantly its announcement to accede to 48 UN Conventions. The first step in the accession process was taken in April 2014 when the PNA became party to 12 fundamental human rights conventions including the bills of rights for women, namely the Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination of Violence Against Women (CEDAW). The accession to CEDAW opens up a window of opportunity to revoke and reform laws and legal provisions discriminating against women and violating their rights. Upon Sweden’s recognition, the Swedish Foreign Minister stressed that Sweden wants “above all to defend democracy, human rights and the position of women in what’s going to be nation-building for Palestine from now on.“ Sweden has followed through on its recognition by increasing the support to development interventions by 50% from 2015-2019 compared to the previous period in an effort to underpin state-building in Palestine. The focus is not least on women‘s rights and Gaza where 51% of women, who have ever been in a marriage, report that they have been subjected to violence in their intimate relationships (UN Women Statistics). In another survey on protection needs in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza, 2nd from the top, is domestic violence in Gaza.
I am on my way to Gaza to meet and discuss with our partners and support them in their important and much needed work. One partner organisation is developing a programme (funded by Sida) to tackle violence against women/girls, also engaging men/boys in that process. Another partner organisation together with a partner in the West Bank are working on a programme to support bereaved women in the Gaza strip: women who have suffered various kinds of losses due to the siege and the Gaza wars in 2008-2009, 2012 and the most devastating one in terms of the death toll and the damage done to homes and industries in the summer of 2014. These programmes will complement what we are supporting already, namely provision of legal aid to and representation of women in sharia courts; empowerment programs for victims of violence and other vulnerable women; rights of women with disabilities in the West Bank and Gaza; and research and interventions pertaining to the practice and risk of early marriages.
The situation in Gaza makes me sad. At the same time, I always feel inspired after talking to our partners in Gaza whose resilience and spirit I admire. The same goes for our partners in the West Bank. If these women would be in positions of formal power there would not be any problems!
Women and children in Gaza are waiting for the reconstruction of their homes.
These women were sitting in the shade in front of demolished buildings. Not only have they lost their homes, they have also lost their livelihoods – the goats and the bees. They used to produce milk, cheese and meat, and their honey was the best they claim. They were managing fine. Now all is gone.
During the day, they sit in the shade in front of the ruins waiting for justice to arrive, the reconstruction of their homes and livelihoods. The international community did not (manage to) prevent the “collateral damage”, including bombing of homes, factories, mosques, and death of civilians. The international community is paying the bill…again. The donor conference in Cairo last Sunday was claimed to be a success. The funding exceeded the pledge made.
This week, the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, visited Gaza. He said the destruction was beyond description. I agree. The Network of Palestinian NGOs (Non-Governmental Organisations) is calling for the establishment of a national committee, including women human rights organisations, to ensure inclusiveness and transparency during the reconstruction phase. The question is if the allocation of these funds will be accountable to women’s rights and gender equality and even include affirmative action to ensure such accountability? The future of the baby girl in the photo – born on the first day of the military offensive in Gaza, 7th of July – and of the women and their children will depend on the answer to that question.
A young girl walks beside the rubble of destroyed buildings.
Hanan Kaoud, Madeleine Rees, Sama Bamieh at the 27th session of UN Human Rights Council
In 2007 the UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon said: “All victims of human rights abuses should be able to look to the Human Rights Council as a forum and a springboard for action”.
That is not the reality for many people today. Aminah is one of these people. She has lost everything. One year ago her husband died and during the Gaza offensive she also lost her home. These events have had devastating consequences for Aminah, not knowing what’s going to happen in the future. Currently Aminah is living with her parents in Jerusalem because she holds a Jerusalem ID which gives her permission to legally reside in Jerusalem. Her permit to live in Gaza was revoked after the death of her husband and now she no longer has permission to reside in the place that has been her home for 30 years. On top of that Aminah may also have challenges claiming reparations of her destroyed house in Gaza as the property was registered in her husband’s name.