In Gaza, the Gender Initiative of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) works on both protection from and the prevention of domestic violence. The Domestic Violence Awareness-Raising in the Community (DV) project targets community members – women, men and youth – through training and discussion groups on concepts relating to gender, human rights and violence.
In 2013, 24 community-based organizations around the Gaza Strip implemented DV sessions to ensure access to the most marginalized areas. The project reached 782 participants – 294 women, 235 men and 253 youth – and provided them with information on gender equality, different types of gender-based violence (GBV) and their effects, anger management, problem solving, women’s rights and the UNRWA GBV referral system.
The DV sessions in 2013 opened with screenings of Ana Ahlaam, a film the Agency produced in Lebanon. Watching the movie encouraged participants to speak in a new, open way.
The project used pre- and post-questionnaires to measure the changes in attitudes towards DV. The questionnaires revealed that while youth were the most susceptible to new ways of thinking in relation to DV, attitudes were also changed among adult participants. Prior to the start of the sessions, only 30 per cent of participants thought that men should be part of the solution when tackling GBV, but afterwards, 80 per cent of men and women felt this was true. Among youth, the figure reached 97 per cent.
Majorities of both male and female participants agreed that instability and the economic situation were main factors in causing violence – 69 per cent before the training and 77 per cent afterwards. Only one third of male and female participants understood early marriage as a form of GBV in the pre-questionnaire, but in the post-questionnaire, the number rose to 88 per cent.
Before the start of the training, only 21 per cent of youth and 29 per cent of women and men said they had heard of the UNRWA GBV referral system. This awareness had reached 100 per cent after the training.
Generous support from the Kingdom of Norway, as well as two additional donations, will enable UNRWA to continue providing DV training sessions in 2014.
"I really encourage showing this film, since it’s a very effective way to tell about the violence in our society. Ahlaam’s story talks about me too. I’ve been abandoned by my husband for a year now. My husband was violent from the beginning of our marriage, and his family also started interfering in our life. I left my home but my family took me back. My husband kept beating me, he took my mobile phone and didn’t allow me to visit my family.
"After seeing this film and attending the DV sessions, I realized that I have find a lawyer to help me so my husband will pay alimony for his daughter. I also found out that the counselling is for free.
"This project is excellent. I wish you could train us so we could provide such sessions for women in our neighbourhoods."
"When I was first invited to attend a session, I came for a coupon that I was told would be distributed. I stayed for the first session, wondering why I was there and what they were talking about, but things changed when I became part of the dialogue. The next day, I was struggling with whether to go to the session or stay at work. Finally, I decided to go. A lot of real stories were told and each one made me ashamed of myself, because I beat my wife and children.
"After that session, I went home and I found that my wife had not prepared lunch. I was really mad but I remembered what the facilitator had said. I counted to ten and I relaxed myself.
"I then attended the third session, where we talked about CEDAW. I wrote a list of articles on a piece of paper so I wouldn’t forget, and asked my son to find them on the internet. I wanted to show my wife that I am a good husband who understands this agreement.
"On the fourth day of the sessions, I talked with the trainer about CEDAW. She was really happy with me and asked the audience to clap for me. At that moment, I really wished I could have completed my university studies because I felt different from inside. I hope you can do more of these sessions so all men can learn like me."