Issue No.
196, August 2014 Latest update 9 2014f August 2014, at 4.39 am
  Today's Events
   Thu. December 05, 2019






        PDF Version
This Week in Palestine's
Print Edition
          Classified Ads

The General Union of Palestinian Women

The tumultuous events that marked the history of Palestine during the 20th century placed a great burden of responsibility upon Palestinian women, as guardians of the fabric of a society beleaguered by successive onslaughts of foreign domination and occupation.

At the turn of the century, the Palestinian society was jolted by unprecedented threats to its very core and existence on its land. This led to decades of political turmoil that has not abated up till the present. In its agony, society constantly fell back on its women for the solace of their fortitude and patience and for the compassion, altruism and unquestioned dedication that guided their actions.

At every juncture, women demonstrated these qualities with an indomitable spirit. In rural areas, they shared the struggle to survive and to resist impending disasters with the scant means available to them. In urban areas, affluent women took upon themselves the role of alleviating the suffering of their compatriots, sharing their tribulations and exerting concerted efforts towards the advancement of the status of women through education and a variety of cultural and social services.
The budding seeds of the General Union of Palestinian Women (GUPW) were, therefore, ready to be embraced and tended when, in 1965, the PLO launched a call for the mobilization of women and all other sectors of the Palestinian society in the face of the process of dispossession and disenfranchisement to which the Palestinian people were subjected. The response to this call was tremendous. Palestinian women, dispersed all over the world, seemed to be waiting for someone to beckon them, or for a national strategy to mobilize their efforts towards liberation and the restoration of their rights and lands. Palestinian women from all over were invited by the PLO to attend a conference in Jerusalem during which it declared the establishment of the GUPW, drew its charter and elected its first executive committee.

The enthusiasm with which Palestinian women received this step was translated into action despite the existence of several political hurdles. The Union became the embodiment of Palestinian women’s aspirations and their united voice in their march towards independence and the achievement of their social rights. The Israeli occupation of 1967 reinforced the determination of women in their struggle and imposed upon them many more duties and obligations in the face of blatant attempts at erasing the Palestinian identity and obliterating the national memory of a lost homeland. As a result of the occupation and the emerging complicated political situation, members of the Union became cut off from one another, some joining the PLO in exile while others remained in Palestine to hold the fort, so to speak.

Those who left Palestine assumed a very important role amongst the refugees in their various places of exile. They succeeded in building an efficient network of social and educational services, over and above their involvement in the political struggle. They held their conventions every four years and represented Palestinian women in international forums, advocating their cause and voicing the concerns of those who were suppressed by the occupation’s punitive measures and travel restrictions.
Members of the Union who remained in Palestine exerted concerted efforts to fulfil the mission and goals of the Union through mobilizing women’s voluntary societies and later on grass roots committees. A number of activities and projects were adopted by those societies and committees with the aim of advancing the status of women and empowering them to be able to withstand the pressure of occupation and its systematic attempts at making life unbearable for themselves and their families.

During the long, harsh years of occupation, the Union was able to maintain the morale of the population by the dedication of its members in the various Palestinian areas and by the united front they put up in their efforts to confront the occupation. In the absence of a national government, the Union, like other Palestinian institutions and organizations, had to shoulder many responsibilities by attempting to address the grievous situation emanating from the occupation. Alleviating the suffering of the victims of occupation, building a healthy and moral society and resisting the occupation through marches, sit-ins and hunger strikes were serious challenges that the Union faced with determination and perseverance, defying all obstacles. Educational, vocational, medical, legal, and social services were offered by a large number of women’s organizations affiliated to the Union. Moreover, the Union was very active, and still is, in advocacy campaigns and in networking with women’s and human rights organizations around the world.

After 1993, when it became possible for the Palestinian leadership represented by the PLO to enter Palestine, the GUPW began the huge task of building the infrastructure of the Union in Palestine. This demanded a great deal of human and financial resources. Teams of volunteers who had been hitherto involved in the work of the Union mobilized their efforts to establish branches in all the Palestinian governorates. In a few years’ time, 17 preparatory committees were designated to prepare for the 5th National Convention of the Union which was slated to take place in the aftermath of the completion of the mobilization campaign. Unfortunately, the political situation resulting from the Israeli invasion and incursions during the Intifada delayed this process. Despite this delay, the Union was able to remain the unified voice of Palestinian women in advocating the Palestinian cause and in lobbying for women’s rights, through defying the transportation and communication obstacles and forging a network between its various committees and other women’s organization and centres. Its preparatory committees of volunteers worked hard to advance the status of women and in alleviating their suffering, each in its branch, through a variety of activities.
In 2005, the GUPW resolved to resume what had been disrupted by the Israeli incursions during the Intifada and set a timetable for holding the branch conferences as a prelude to the Union’s National Convention. The West Bank branches, representing 58,000 women, began this process by holding their conferences during the months of February and March 2006, during which their representatives will discuss the Union’s charter and strategy and will elect the branches’ executive committee delegates to the National Convention of the Union. In the meantime, the Gaza branches and the several branches outside Palestine will be preparing to hold their conferences at a later stage.

As the years 2005 and 2006 can be truly called “the years of elections and democracy” in Palestinian history, the GUPW succeeded in leaving its imprint on those elections and on the democratic process. Together with several sister groups, it held training sessions for women in the various areas and locations and led a campaign for enhancing and expanding women’s participation in the municipal and legislative councils, with some success. As a result, three women were elected as mayors for the first time in Palestinian history and almost 20% of the elected municipal and local council members are now women. In the Palestinian Legislative Council, women were accorded quotas in the national lists and as a result 16 women were elected to the Council out of the 132 members.

As the Union becomes deeply rooted within Palestinian communities, especially after its upcoming elections, it is expected that it will spread out to include most Palestinian towns, villages and refugee camps. It will be called upon to abide by its mission in keeping in touch with its grass roots, listening to their concerns and attempting to address their problems and grievances. It will also be called upon to remain vigilant in retaining its achievements, and in continuing the struggle towards the full and equal participation of women in all walks of life, foremost amongst which is the decision making process.

On this occasion, on behalf of the GUPW, I extend the greetings of the 8th of March to all Palestinian women, especially those who linger behind bars and those who suffer the loss and bereavement of dear ones a result of injustice and oppression. Special greetings to women all over the world who continue to stand in solidarity with our people during our harshest moments. Greetings to all women who demonstrate courage before oppressive measures and who never hesitate to speak truth to power. Let us hope that together we may build a gentler future for all of humanity and for our future generations.

Rima Tarazi
President of the Administrative Board
of the General Union of Palestinian Women

Back Add Response Print Send to friend
See This Week in Palestine's Previous Edition
Edition No.
Contact Us | About Us | Site Map | Career
Disclaimer | Legal Notes