Maintaining Hope in Gaza

One of the strong women that continue keeping hope in Gaza. Photo: Kvinna till Kvinna/ Magnea Marinosdottir

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

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.

When will justice come to Gaza?

Women and children in Gaza waiting for reconstruction of their homes. Photo: Kvinna till Kvinna/Magnea Marinosdottir.

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. Photo: Kvinna till Kvinna/Magnea Marinosdottir.

A young girl walks beside the rubble of destroyed buildings.

“Han har rivit sönder hennes skolböcker”

En tom klassrum i Mu´ta Basic School. Kvinnor och flickor får inte finnas på bild.

En tom klassrum i Mu´ta Basic School. Kvinnor och flickor får inte finnas på bild. //Foto: Lise Bergh

Vår bil stannar utanför Mu´ta Basic School in As Samu’ i Yatta på Västbanken. Det är en stor skola för flickor i klasserna 1-10. Här går 740 elever och alla trettio lärare är kvinnor. Det är en helt kvinnodominerad värld. När vi går in genom grindarna till skolgården möts vi av flickor mellan 9 till 16 år. De skrattar och tittar på oss och stöter på varandra och några dristar sig till att säga hello och fnissar sedan.

Alla samlas kring oss. Vi vinkar och säger hello och mar’haba. Snart kommer en lärare ut på gården och vi blir förda till rektorsexpeditionen där vi slår oss ner med Pushra Gatashi, rektor för skolan som hälsar oss välkomna tillsammans med Ahlam Hamade, ställföreträdande rektor, Kholoud Titi, engelsklärare och Reem Ageeli som är ”councellor”, en form av skolpsykolog.

Jag förklarar vilka vi, EAPPI, är och att jag också är intresserad av att höra hur de som kvinnor lever i Palestina. Snart börjar ett livligt samtal där vi pratar i munnen på varandra, jag ivrig att fråga och de att svara, interfolierat med översättning från arabiska till engelska. De berättar att skolan har 19 klassrum och att det går mellan 39-42 barn i varje klass.

De vill först berätta om skolans problem. Vattenledningarna har brister som gör att det inte alltid kommer vatten ur kranarna. De har ingen utrustning för idrott och det ser vi när vi lämnar skolan efter vårt möte, ett femtiotal flickor ligger på marken och utöva någon form av bengymnastik. I övrigt har skolan 15 datorer men saknar bandspelare till engelskalektionerna. De satsar stort på engelskaundervisning och har fyra lärare i ämnet. De är också bekymrade över att muren runt skolan är för låg. Män och pojkar kan se över muren.

Lärarna berättar att de har universitetsutbildning i sina respektive ämnesområden. Jag får också reda på att i dag utbildar sig fler flickor än pojkar vid universitet och högskolor. De förklarar att pojkar inte tror att de ska få arbete efter utbildningen och satsar på att få ett jobb direkt efter grundskolan, helst i Israel för det ger bäst inkomst. (Även om palestinier får lägre lön än israeler och att palestinier är knutna till en arbetsgivare för sitt arbetstillstånd). För 10-15 år sedan var det svårt för flickor att vidareutbilda sig. Familjen ville inte att döttrarna skulle vara ensamma vid ett universitet och jag tänker också på att South Hebron Hills är ett mycket konservativt område. Det var också dyrt och då satsade man hellre på en son. Så är det inte nu.

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Palestinian women voices raised in UN Human Rights Council

Hanan Kaoud, Madeleine Rees, Sama Bamieh at the 27th session of  UN Human Rights Council

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.

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Thirsting for justice – a review of the Sjövik seminar 14-16 June

The 11th Sjövik seminar 2013 started one day after the Swedish Minister of International Development Cooperation announced that Sweden should cut its development aid to Palestine, since it yields no visible results. The focus of the seminar was the water situation and the situation of women in Palestine. As usual, restrictions on travel for Palestinians implied that the planned participants were not able to attend which resulted in a list of guests that were not necessarily as familiar with the topic of women’s rights in Palestine as the original plan. However, the guests made up for it with compelling and moving personal stories about being women in Palestine.

The only guest from Israel, Lihi Joffe from New Profile, did a very good job of focusing on feminism and the impact of militarism on the Israeli society. She spoke in depth about the way in which militarism infiltrates all parts of Israeli society. Her talk started with the question: “Do we have a country with an army or do we have an army with a country?”  and went on to inform the audience about the societal sanctions that people who leave the army or refuse to serve will face in the Israeli society; how schools create a ranking system or a pecking order between students based on how many in their family that have served in the army during the history of wars in Israel.

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65 years of continued displacement

It’s May 15 today and May 15 is the day Palestinians call Al Nakba.  65 years ago, the creation of the state of Israel implied the displacement of thousands of Palestinians who left their homes and were forced to settle elsewhere. It led to the physical separation of Palestinians across the region – to refugee camps in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan, to the West Bank, to Gaza, to Jerusalem – which continues today, aggravated by movement restrictions, discrimination, housing  demolitions, closure and siege.

The political division between Gaza and West Bank is but one of the more recent developments that continues to drive a stake between the Palestinians living in this case just a two hour drive apart. (The division, in brief, came when Hamas won the 2006 parliamentary elections, and concluding in their control of Gaza, and Fatah responding by claiming the West Bank.)

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