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

Fadwa Mawasi, Head of the Baqa al-Gharbia Women's Council

Fadwa Mawasi, Head of the Baqa al-Gharbia Women’s Council

Fadwa Mawasi, head of the Women’s Council, spoke of inequality as latent violence. “Decisions on resource allocation remain in the hands of masculine leadership and we have to settle for the crumbs they throw us,” she said. “We live in a democracy, but on its margins. Men are afraid of our abilities, but we are our own worst enemies.” Mawasi reminded us that she was the first woman in Baqa al-Gharbia who stood at the head of the local council elections list and was thus awarded leadership of the Municipality’s Women’s Council. “You don’t request that right, you seize it. We do not fight men, we insist on being full and equal partners with them.”

Rawiya Handaklu, a lawyer and feminist activist

Rawiya Handaklu, a lawyer and feminist activist

Lawyer Rawiya Handaklu, who ran for municipal elections in Upper Nazareth, spoke on economic violence, which is no less brutal than verbal or physical violence. Arab women are better educated than men but what is the value of study if there is no work? The worst, most exploitative employers are Arab bosses who pay a woman ten shekels per hour. No Arab man would agree to work for such a sum, but women accept it. Handaklu pointed out that many women do not control their salaries and give up their inheritance rights, thus weakening their economic, social and political power.

Abir Ghanaen, director of the "City without Violence" project

Abir Ghanaen, director of the “City without Violence” project

Abir Ghanaian, social worker and director of the project “City Without Violence,” said that a hundred years after women took to the streets for their rights, violence has only increased. “Where are we in the struggle against violence?” she asked. “What do we do to change the situation? Are we waiting for the men give us our rights on a silver platter? You seize your rights, you do not receive them. A woman has to feel her own power and to think not only of her family and her home, but also of the society around her because if she does not do so, nothing will change.”

Dr. Taghreed Yahya-Younis, a Tel Aviv University sociologist

Dr. Taghreed Yahya-Younis, a Tel Aviv University sociologist

Dr. Taghreed Yahya-Younis spoke about the international and local frameworks within which violence develops. Violence in Israel is expressed in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by the violence of the state vis-a-vis its Palestinian citizens. “But”, she added, “we are also responsible because of our tradition of violence and blaming the victim, which finds expression even in traditional songs sung by folk singer Mariah Abu Wasel, in which the woman accepts violence towards herself. “We have to bring new content to our tradition, that of democracy and equality”, said Yahya-Younis, “and to give new meaning to the way in which we perceive masculinity”.

Maria Abu Wasel, who arrived onstage to perform another piece admitted: “This is the first time I’ve been confronted with such an idea and it’s very true.” As an example, she sang a song about a woman who loves a person who hurts her. “We love our songs”, said Abu Wasel, “and we fail to notice that they may glorify violence and cause us damage”.

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