On International Women’s Day, UNRWA fights back against violence against women

08 March 2013

08 March
Jerusalem

UNRWA celebrated International Women’s Day today by calling for an end to violence against women and girls. A series of campaign events throughout areas such as Gaza and Syria celebrated the UN’s theme for the day: “A promise is a promise: Time for action to end violence against women.”

In embattled Syria, workshops held throughout the country aimed to equip Palestinian and internally-displaced (IDP) Syrian women with the tools to help their community in the face of a protracted emergency. At UNRWA’s emergency shelter for IDPs in Khan Dannoun, women who had fled their homes were trained in psychological support techniques, how to respond to abuse, and physical and economic survival in the midst of conflict. 

In neighbouring Lebanon (pictured below), UNRWA staff got together with local organisations to launch a week of public discussions, fairs, public walks, and even puppet shows aiming to raise awareness of the impact of violence against women. Audiences were yesterday treated to a screening of Ana Ahlam (I am Ahlam), a film about an abuse victim that was produced by UNRWA and the Palestinian General Union for Women in Lebanon.

UNRWA’s 243 schools in the Gaza Strip marked International Women’s Day with class discussions about respect for women, asking students to identify women that they most admire in their communities, as well as in Palestinian and world history.

The teaching sessions are part of an anti-violence campaign launched by UNRWA in Gaza last week, aiming to help the local community to prevent and respond to gender-based violence. The campaign also includes an exhibition today of the unique handcrafts produced by UNRWA’s Sulafa centre, run by women in aid of marginalised Gazan women living in abject poverty. The initiative aims to help women establish a source of income through the use of traditional skills.  

Throughout the West Bank today, UNRWA campaigned to raise awareness about violence against women in the Palestine refugee community. A series of workshops with legal aid organisations involved men and women in discussions about women’s rights, while UNRWA schools in the area celebrated this occasion with discussions in school parliaments, speaking events for children, and a series of art competitions on the problem of violence against women. More crafts and other products, these made by refugee women in the West Bank, went on sale at an UNRWA fair in Nazareth, northern Israel.

UNRWA Jordan teamed up with the women’s programme centre in Husn refugee camp for an open-space conference on Palestinian female identity. Entitled “My identity…my memories…my future”, the event was supported by the GIZ Social & Cultural Fund, and featured photos and written submissions by women on the subject of women’s identity.

Read the story of Aesha, an inspirational Palestinian woman living in Lebanon

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$ 56 million.

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