Advancing gender equality is not only critical for the equal enjoyment of human rights of all, it is also an indispensable prerequisite for reducing poverty and advancing human development. Gender equality is an integral part of the UNRWA commitment to the welfare, human development and protection of Palestine refugees. The Agency endeavors to translate this goal into reality through its services and advocacy.
Adopted in 2007, the UNRWA Policy on Gender Equality affirms the Agency’s commitment to gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.
The Policy states that:
“As UNRWA staff, we are committed to accelerating efforts towards gender equality and empowerment of women. In making this commitment, we acknowledge that gender equality as well as the promotion and protection of the full enjoyment by women and girls of all human rights and fundamental freedoms are essential to strengthen humanitarian activities and advance development, peace and security.”
The Policy lays out a twin-track approach, combining gender mainstreaming with targeted interventions for women and girls as a tool to bridge historical gaps in gender equality, participation and access to services.
In 2016, UNRWA adopted a new Gender Equality Strategy (2016-2021) entitled Integrating Gender, Improving Services, Impacting Lives. This strategy builds on the first UNRWA gender mainstreaming strategy and is aligned with the Agency’s Medium Term Strategy for 2016-2021 and the United Nations System Wide Action Plan for Gender Equality. It includes drivers of change, a theory of change integrating gender mainstreaming in management processes, and proposes concrete actions to improve the quality of services delivery.
Since 2009, UNRWA has been working on a multi-sectoral approach towards ending GBV for Palestine refugees. The holistic approach works on both response and prevention through: 1) ensuring survivors’ access to services through the establishment of a referral system, bringing together UNRWA programmes, as well as external service providers; and 2) engaging community members in prevention and awareness-raising activities. In addition, mindful of the gendered impact of crises and emergencies, UNRWA has been progressively working on addressing GBV in emergency contexts through its multi-year programme Building Safety: Mainstreaming GBV Interventions into Emergency Preparedness, Prevention and Response. Under this programme, UNRWA developed a GBV Prevention Framework that includes road maps with systematic actions to prevent GBV and means to measure impact. In 2017, UNRWA also became a member of the Call to Action on Protection from GBV in Emergencies.
UNRWA promotes the rights of Palestine refugee women through engagement with relevant United Nations human rights mechanisms, including the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, in accordance with the Agency’s Framework for an Effective Engagement with the International Human Rights System. In addition, in 2017, UNRWA launched ‘In Their Own Words’, a compilation of inspiring stories from Palestinian women, some of whom are UNRWA staff. The booklet is based on a project that started in early 2015 to mark International Women’s Day (8 March), highlighting stories of Palestinian women and shedding light on their triumphs and, at times, losses. The stories vary in content, but all tell a story of courage, resourcefulness and a will to choose life and hope in the face of adversity. The stories represent the strength and resilience of these women and the ways in which they have chosen to cope.
*Last updated: March 2018