Women’s Day in Baqa al-Gharbia: The change must begin from within

The Community Center, Baqa al-Gharbia, 8 March, 2016.

_DSC8667 - Copy“Woman is the first victim of violence” was the title of a well-attended gathering held on the occasion of International Women’s Day in Baqa al-Gharbia. The event was sponsored by WAC-MAAN (henceforth WAC), WAC Women’s Forum and the Women’s Council of Baqa al-Gharbia. The women who flocked to the local Community Center came not to enjoy a shopping spree or sample tasty goodies so much as to deal with the violence harmful to Arab society and, above all, to its women. About 160 attended the conference, including a delegation of women from East Jerusalem that WAC-MAAN assists in the face of high-handed treatment by the Employment Office and the Social Security Service.  Also attending were women from the Orthodox “Ors Al-Jalil” Association of Kafr Cana, women active in Sindyanna of Galilee, members of WAC’s Women’s Forum from the triangle area, agricultural workers organized by WAC, and members of the Women’s Council of Baqa al-Gharbia, who set up outside the hall stalls with products of small businesses, handicrafts and consumer-products which are run by women from the village with the help of the Women’s Council.

Moderator Wafa Tiara, WAC-MAAN

Moderator Wafa Tiara, WAC-MAAN

The Speakers Panel was no less impressive than the turnout. Next to moderators Wafa Tiara from WAC and Fawzia Kitani from the Women’s Council appeared powerful, influential women like Ratebah Natshe from East Jerusalem, activist in the Female Labor Union and the Palestinian Fida Party; Fadwa Mawasi, Head of the Baqa al-Gharbiya Women’s Council; Rawiya Handaklu, a lawyer and feminist activist; Abir Ghanaian, director of the “City without Violence” project; and Dr. Taghreed Yahya-Younis, a Tel Aviv University sociologist. Women activists also spoke – Abir Majadla, a Women’s Council volunteer; Abir Mawasi of WAC’s Women’s Forum; and Rania Saleh, WAC’s Field Coordinator in East Jerusalem.

Ratebah Natshe, the Female Labor Union and the Palestinian Fida Party

Ratebah Natshe, the Female Labor Union and the Palestinian Fida Party

Folk singer Maria Abu Wasel wowed the audience with improvised folk songs, and the young poetess Manal Badran read a militant poem against “manhood” and violence. Wafa Tiara delineated the framework for the women’s struggle against violence: “Our society is sick, and we must recognize that. We struggle for an egalitarian, democratic and modern society that respects each and every man or woman and permits freedom of expression without censorship. Hence our support for the Arab Spring and particularly the struggle of the Syrian people fighting for democracy and against dictatorship; our opposition to the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian people; and our support for joint Jewish-Arab struggle.” Tiara also said, “We are fighting for jobs for women because economic independence is the key to the struggle for change and social justice.”

Ratebah Natshe from the Women’s Labour Union in the West Bank said the oppression of women is not only due to the attitudes of men, but also to women’s acceptance of male logic. She attacked the concept of “women’s honour” and related how occupation soldiers take advantage of it to provoke Palestinians and punish them. Natshe referred to the Palestinian women’s glass ceiling which allows them to reach high positions and even become ministers, but only in matters connected with education, welfare and health. She said that in her work, she encourages women to enter the political arena to challenge the masculine monopoly.

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About Michal Schwarz