10 Weeks and 16 Days: Ending Violence Against Women in Palestine
From November 25 to December 10- as much of the world readies itself for the holiday season- part of the global community is also preparing for another season: one where violence against women doesn’t exist. Deemed 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, this international campaign seeks to show solidarity in the fight to end violence against women. This year's theme- From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World- showcases women's roles as peacemakers in both their homes, neighborhoods, and nations. Organizations both international- and grassroots- take part in this annual campaign, creating activities and awareness projects that center around this topic. Yet from September to December, The Women's Group at TYO has centered around this same topic, as we've spent ten weeks discussing the importance of women's participation in the community, women's rights to take action against violence, and women's ability to be key change-makers and decision-makers. With the help of local partner organizations- such as the YMCA and the Women's Studies Center- The Women's Group has made most every day of the past three months a day to end violence against women.
So as the world takes these 16 days to take a stand against violence, here's a glimpse into how The Women's Group has taken a stand here at TYO this session:
- Communication: There's a quote hanging on one of our classroom walls that states "the first way people give up their power is by thinking they don't have any." While it was Alice Walker who once said this, The Women's Group this session focused on ensuring that every woman understands that they can say what they feel- and what they deserve. By bringing in unique trainers like Right to Play, women participated in a variety of experiential activities to help them recognize their voice, feel confident in speaking up for themselves, and understand the roles- and rights- they have as a woman to be listened to in the community. Further, we've also covered how peaceful communication at home with children is a critical step in ensuring a peaceful next generation.
- Finding Support Systems: When we're talking about violence against women here in Palestine, we're insistent to do more than just inform individuals that it's wrong- but also to provide options for women who might be facing abuse of any sort. This session, we utilized local community resources and women's rights lawyers to lead discussions about how to escape an abusive situation, and how a woman can seek support when her family disapproves of her choices to leave an unhealthy home. Whether it was providing hotlines for emergencies or tips on how to access a safe home, these seminars strengthened women's ability to not only recognize their rights- but take actions to claim those rights.
- Resilience: With all the talk of violence and abuse, it's critical that we emphasize the importance of self-care and stress reduction, too- as well as emphasizing that women can, and will, bounce back from difficult situations. By utilizing simple activities such as chair yoga- or organizing a game of soccer in TYO's front yard- we worked to provide outlets for women to realize their worth, and recognize the benefits of taking care of themselves. We've also run several debriefing groups for women to discuss some of the heavier issues raised in seminars, so that they have a safe place to discuss.
So while we're marking these special 16 days this year, ending gender violence isn't a short-term task- and neither is our commitment to the women of Nablus. As this session closes, we're already gearing up for the next- and continue in our goal to make sure that gender-based violence doesn't see another day.
- Cayce Pack is the Women's Empowerment Coordinator at TYO.