Gaza is Code Pink on International Women's Day

08 March 2009

On the day before International Women’s Day, a 50-member international delegation carrying 2,000 gift baskets crossed the Egyptian border into the Gaza Strip, to pay tribute to Gazan women.

The CODE PINK delegation

The delegation, organised by the US-based women’s peace group CODEPINK, came at the invitation of UNRWA’s ‘Equality in Action‘ programme, which aims to foster equity in status and opportunities for women across the Strip. Since the end of the military offensive in Gaza, the programme has devoted its efforts to working with Palestinian women and girls to meet their immediate needs and help them rebuild their lives.

Once inside Gaza, the delegation visited Palestinian women’s groups and delivered the 2,000 baskets, which contained vitamins, first aid materials, tea, sweets, lotion, shampoo and scarves.

The gift baskets

Medea Benjamen, one of the founders of CODEPINK, explained why the delegation was organised. "We went to Gaza because the women there have suffered so much during the 22-day invasion – with so many children killed and injured, so many homes lost, children traumatized by violence. We wanted to show them that they are not alone, and they are not forgotten."

The 22-day operation in Gaza had a devastating effect on all the inhabitants of the Gaza Strip, but women - who, in the midst of difficult situation in Gaza, often act as the lynchpin holding families together - suffered a unique set of challenges and traumas. UNRWA’s Jacqueline Paul told how "during and after Operation Cast Lead, Palestinian girls and women in the Gaza Strip  endured acute stress and trauma." Today, sleeplessness, flashbacks, nightmares, fatigue and headaches haunt many girls and women, she said. "For many girls and women, their domestic sphere, the "female space" in the Gaza Strip, has been lost or damaged."

Delegates enjoyed a dabka performance

Against this backdrop of extreme distress, it is hoped that beyond the Strip, CODEPINK‘s visit will raise awareness of the plight of Gazan women. Medea says that, "We want to show solidarity and support for the women. We want to hear the women’s stories and take them back to our media, our communities. And we want to pressure for political changes that will stop this violence."

What made this visit special, echoed Jacqueline Paul, is its attempt "to provide Palestinian women with the chance to connect with the outside world". The overall effect is to create "a concrete manifestation of the solidarity between women across borders", raise awareness of the plight of the Gazan women - and at the same time, pay tribute to their extraordinary strength and capacity.