Springing Forward in 2014: Session Recap

About two weeks ago, we had our last seminars in The Women's Group at TYO for the Spring 2014 session- marking the culmination of an exciting, challenging, and inspiring season of empowerment in Nablus. Women enjoy a celebration of women's rights during the seminar.

About twenty years ago, the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) was held in Cairo, Egypt- making large news when a number of women groups were able to successfully convince key governments and policymakers that the solution to the imminent population explosion discussed at the conference was simple- it was women.  NGOs and women's rights advocates were able to shift the conversation from population control to women's empowerment at this historic conference- leading the argument that an investment in women's health and education would lead to economic development, and address many of the fears raised about exponential population growth.

Unsurprisingly, the idea of women's empowerment was what worked- during the past 20 years, fertility rates have declined as women's advancement has grown. As proven in the just-released ICPD Beyond 2014 Global Report, high fertility rates of 4 children or more per woman are now only found in 45 countries, down from nearly 81 in the period of 1990-1995.

And while there's about twenty years between the ICPD conference and the recent spring session of The Women's Group, there's many similarities about what's being spoken about- as well as the same sense of urgency that while progress has been made, there's still much work to be done. For example, the ICPD report announces that more than 30% of girls marry before 18 in 41 nations- missing key opportunities for development and growth.

Similar to the ICPD, we spent much time in The Women's Group this session talking about reproductive health, and the importance of valuing one's own body and self first before a community can recognize the collective value of women. We accomplished this through informational seminars with partners like the Palestinian Family Planning and Protection Society, as well as visits to local women's health clinics. We also got active outside in fitness classes, learning new volleyball skills and unleashing lots of energy in some competitive soccer games. We achieved strong results, such as a 90% increase in knowledge on women's key subject matter, and saw 40 women attend health screenings outside TYO. We're proud of what happened inside the classrooms- but know it's not enough to just stop there.

So as we look back at the session's highlights, we're mainly looking for how we will keep that progress continuing- so we can continue to advocate for basic rights for women in Palestine, much like those outlined in the ICPD. Just like the Cairo conference 20 years ago, we know it's not enough to just offer solutions- it's about implementing. Moving into summer session, we'll continue to take the steps we've made this Spring as we walk forward into more advocacy and action- bringing about small change in our local community as we work together for the global progress.

-Cayce, Women's Empowerment Coordinator