A thousand-strong audience gathered in Gaza City yesterday for a festival to combat violence against women.
The event marked the end of the global campaign, 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence.
The festival was a unique opportunity to bring together a range of Gazan voices to take a stand for women’s human rights.
Gaza City resident May, 28, said: “I’m so happy today. It was an excellent event, especially the film JASAD, which discusses the status of women in the Gaza Strip and how some face violence. We should shed light on violence against women not just today, but every day.”
In the occupied Palestinian territory violence against women remains widespread. Preliminary findings of a 2011 survey of Palestinian society conducted by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) found that 23.5 per cent of Palestinian women were exposed to physical violence (17.4 per cent in the West Bank compared to 34.8 per cent in the Gaza Strip).
Sixty-year-old Mona said: “I wish violence would not to be repeated again and again. Women and men must be educated to prevent violence. This festival presented images of strong women.”
UNRWA joined forces with UN Women, UNDP, OHCHR and civil society organisations, including the Amal Coalition to Combat Violence Against Women, to organise the festival, which was running for the second year.
Speaking at the event on behalf of the participating UN agencies, the acting deputy director of UNRWA operations in the Gaza Strip, Cathy Howard, said: “A society free from violence against women is something we must strive to achieve, in order to create a safe and secure environment for everyone. Today’s event is a step in that direction where men and women from all over the Gaza Strip have come together to show their support for ending violence against women.”
The festival featured traditional Palestinian dance dabkeh, theatre performance and film screenings.
An original operetta song entitled "Ana Mariam/I am Mariam", composed by the female songwriter Aarab to mark the occasion, was unveiled at the festival. All performances increased the audience’s awareness, understanding and recognition of the problem of violence against women as a public issue and a violation of human rights.
UNRWA also organised activities in other fields. In Syria, the women’s programme centre in Yarmouk held a series of open discussions on women’s rights with a local religious leader.
Health staff in four clinics in Yarmouk and Dera’a were trained to detect and refer survivors of gender-based violence.
In Zarqa camp, Jordan, UNRWA’s health and education programmes ran a session to raise awareness about the social and psychological aspects of gender-based violence. It also focused on the educational aspects linked to violence and early marriage, as well as the social burden of early marriage.
In the West Bank, a bike race at Aida Camp highlighted the campaign to end gender-based violence.