UNRWA’s Woman of the Year Award Ceremony Statement by UNRWA Commissioner-General, Karen AbuZayd

05 December 2009

5 December 2009

UNRWA/ Gaza Women’s Committee

Distinguished colleagues, UNRWA’s female staff,

It gives me great pleasure to be here this morning to attend the first UNRWA’s Woman of the Year Award Ceremony.
   
On many occasions I have said how impressed I am by the creativity and energy emanating from the Gaza field office, and the many exceptional initiatives which have been pursued over the past few years as a result. The establishment of UNRWA Gaza Women’s Committee and the award ceremony today morning is one such example of great ideas put into action. I am grateful to our Gaza Field Office Director, John Ging, for providing the inspiration, space and support to enable staff to carry through such important activities.

Building equality and equity amongst the staff by providing UNRWA female colleagues with mechanisms through which their voices can be heard more clearly, and through which you can more actively participate in the work of the agency, including in a decision-making capacity, is a key component of UNRWA gender policy. It is important not only to help women employees have better day-to-day work experiences and to be able to explore opportunities to develop yourselves professionally, but also to improve the organization as a whole, all of its staff, whether male or female, as well as the refugees we serve.

UNRWA’s female staff’s contribution to the achievements of the agency, and Gaza field office, in particular, is substantial. It is through your dedication, hard work and genuine concern that children in our schools are being educated, that families receive in a timely manner essential basic commodities and that patients in our health centers are being well looked after. Through your commitment as teachers and nurses, clerks, doctors and social workers, you are making UNRWA a more efficient and respected organization, attuned to the needs of Palestine refugees and their communities.

The daily suffering and harsh conditions under which women live in Gaza as well as the experience of conflict, injustice and exile that you share with all Palestinians in the region, and further afield, make it all the more important that you get all possible support from UNRWA, and this is why the establishment of the Gaza Women’s Committee is so critical. We all need to work hand in hand to ensure a more caring, stimulating and secure environment in the agency.

I am impressed that in only one year, the Committee has achieved so much in training, improvement of childcare facilities, breast cancer prevention and special care for pregnant women.

I salute this work and express my thanks to the Committee members and to all UNRWA female staff in Gaza, and in our other four fields of operations. Your work is vital for the agency. It is also meaningful for Palestine refugees and the future of Palestine. Mirroring the spirit of the women of Palestine, their courage, compassion and strength, the talents and aspirations of UNRWA’s female staff are not only helping us deliver better services, they are also providing hope, and helping to build a better future for all Palestinians.

I wish you a fruitful discussion and look forward to hearing the outcome of your deliberations—and to personally congratulating and paying tribute to the Women of the Year!

Background Information

UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly in 1949 and is mandated to provide assistance and protection to a population of some 5 million registered Palestine refugees. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank and the Gaza Strip to achieve their full potential in human development, pending a just solution to their plight. UNRWA’s services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, and microfinance.

Financial support to UNRWA has not kept pace with an increased demand for services caused by growing numbers of registered refugees, expanding need, and deepening poverty. As a result, the Agency's General Fund (GF), supporting UNRWA’s core activities and 97 per cent reliant on voluntary contributions, has begun each year with a large projected deficit. Currently the deficit stands at US$ 70.5 million.

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