UNRWA hosts a side event to the 65th session of United Nations Commission on the Status of Women: Women as Agents of Change in Gaza

24 March 2021
Senior female UNRWA staff speak at the CSW65 Virtual Side Event.© 2021 UNRWA Photo by Hussein Al-Neirab

Today, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) hosted a virtual side event on the occasion of the 65th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) titled “Women as Agents of Change in the Gaza Strip”. The event put the spotlight on three remarkable women in leadership positions in Gaza and was attended by over 70 people.

Dr. Rihab Quqa, Gaza Area Health Officer for the UNRWA Health Programme and Ms. Rawya Hillis, Principal of the UNRWA Gaza Training Centre, explained how their appoint to leadership positions are leading the change for gender equality at UNRWA. Ms. Eman Ashour, an expert in renewable energy, underlined her potential, as a CEO and a woman, in building local capacity and inspiring hope and confidence in the solar energy sector in Gaza.

All three panelists demonstrated the impact strong female leaders can have by reinforcing the resilience of their communities given the dire humanitarian context of the Gaza Strip, now entering its fourteenth year of blockade. They underlined their dedication to forge an enabling and inclusive environment in Gaza, illustrating how they can be a powerful inspiration for girls and women around them. As Dr. Quqa said, “Leaders become great not because they have the power but because they have the ability to empower others.”

Matthias Schmale, the Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza, highlighted the Agency’s efforts to empower women and contribute to gender equality. The event was moderated by Greta Gunnarsdottir, Director of the UNRWA Representative Office New York. During the exchange with the panelists the effects of the power cuts was discussed as well, highlighting for example the extra difficulties for people in Gaza with everyday tasks like preserving food without refrigerators or cooling their houses in the hot summer months. The speakers all underlined the importance for the International Community to support sustainable and inclusive development in Gaza, with an emphasis on the valuable role for education in women’s empowerment. 

The CSW is the principal global intergovernmental body exclusively dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women. Taking place from 15 to 26 March 2021, the 65th session is attended by representatives of United Nations Member States, UN entities and non-governmental organizations.

Economic development in Gaza suffers from years of political, legal and logistical impediments. In this context, women tend to experience higher economic vulnerability. The involvement of women in leadership positions in UNRWA Field Offices and the dedication of the Agency for gender equality aims to empower more Palestine refugee women and girls and achieve change by building equal and inclusive environments.

Background Information: 

UNRWA is confronted with an increased demand for services resulting from a growth in the number of registered Palestine refugees, the extent of their vulnerability and their deepening poverty. UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions and financial support has been outpaced by the growth in needs. As a result, the UNRWA programme budget, which supports the delivery of core essential services, operates with a large shortfall. UNRWA encourages all Member States to work collectively to exert all possible efforts to fully fund the Agency’s programme budget. UNRWA emergency programmes and key projects, also operating with large shortfalls, are funded through separate funding portals.

UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly in 1949 and mandated to provide assistance and protection to some 5.7 million Palestine refugees registered with UNRWA across its five fields of operation. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank, including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip achieve their full human development potential, pending a just and lasting solution to their plight. UNRWA services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, protection and microfinance.

For more information, please contact:

Sami Mshasha
Director of Communications, Arabic Language Spokesperson
Mobile: 
+972 (0)54 216 8295
Office: 
+972 (0)258 90724
Tamara Alrifai
UNRWA Spokesperson
Mobile: 
+962 (0)79 090 0140