Women's Day

International Women’s Day

Below are two press releases which were distributed by UNIS and Al-Haq for Human Rights on the 100th Anniversary of the International Women’s Day. Another Film was distributed by Al-Haq. Please see the film.

“Only Through Women’s Equal Participation in All Areas of Life Can We Hope to Achieve the Sustainable, Peaceful and Just Society”

Message on International Women’s Day, 8 March 2011

VIENNA, 8 March (UN Information Service) – One hundred years ago, when the world first commemorated International Women’s Day, gender equality and women’s empowerment were largely radical ideas. On this centenary, we celebrate the significant progress that has been achieved through determined advocacy, practical action and enlightened policy making. Yet, in too many countries and societies, women remain second-class citizens.

Although the gender gap in education is closing, there are wide differences within and across countries, and far too many girls are still denied schooling, leave prematurely or complete school with few skills and fewer opportunities. Women and girls also continue to endure unacceptable discrimination and violence, often at the hand of intimate partners or relatives. In the home and at school, in the workplace and in the community, being female too often means being vulnerable. And in many conflict zones, sexual violence is deliberately and systematically used to intimidate women and whole communities.

My UNiTE to End Violence Against Women campaign, along with its Network of Men Leaders, is working to end impunity and change mindsets. There is also growing international resolve to punish and prevent sexual aggression in conflict, and to do more to implement the Security Council’s landmark resolution 1325 on women, peace and security, which highlights the importance of involving women in all aspects of building and keeping peace.

Another area where we urgently need to see significant progress is on women’s and children’s health. The September 2010 Summit on the Millennium Development Goals recognized the central importance of this issue, and Member States and the philanthropic community have pledged strong support for my global strategy to save lives and improve the health of women and children over the next four years.

In the realm of decision-making, more women, in more countries, are taking their rightful seat in parliament. Yet fewer than 10 per cent of countries have female heads of state or government. Even where women are prominent in politics, they are often severely under-represented in other areas of decision-making, including at the highest levels of business and industry. A recent UN initiative – the Women’s Empowerment Principles, now embraced by more than 130 major corporations – aims to redress this imbalance.

This year’s observance of International Women’s Day focuses on equal access to education, training and science and technology. Cell phones and the Internet, for example, can enable women to improve the health and well-being of their families, take advantage of income-earning opportunities, and protect themselves from exploitation and vulnerability. Access to such tools, backed up by education and training, can help women to break the cycle of poverty, combat injustice and exercise their rights.

The launch this year of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women – UN Women – demonstrates our intent to deepen our pursuit of this agenda. Only through women’s full and equal participation in all areas of public and private life can we hope to achieve the sustainable, peaceful and just society promised in the United Nations Charter.


On the 100th Anniversary of International Women’s Day

Palestinian Women’s Rights Remain Under Siege

Tuesday 8 March marks the 100th Anniversary of International Women’s Day. Women across the world will be mobilising and marching in celebration and protest, championing their freedom of expression and campaigning for further change. Al-Haq takes this opportunity to remind the rest of the world that in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) the struggle for the fundamental human rights of Palestinian women is held hostage to a belligerent and unrelenting occupation.

In commemoration of International Women’s Day, the United Nations theme this year is ‘Equal access to education, training and science and technology: Pathway to decent work for women.’ Throughout the OPT, women’s access to educational institutions, places of employment and healthcare clinics is severely impeded by restrictions on  Palestinians’ right to freedom of movement. While the repressive and discriminatory policies exercised by Israel against the free movement of Palestinians have had a devastating effect on the entire population, the disproportionate impact on Palestinian women, who are denied the most basic economic and social rights guaranteed to them by international law, cannot be overstated.

The Annexation Wall, which appropriates lands, disconnects communities, and restricts access to medical care, schools, and workplaces, is only one of numerous pernicious policies that violate Palestinians’ right to freedom of movement. Travel time and costs are greatly multiplied by the Wall, its associated permit regime and over 500 other obstacles to free movement in the OPT, including checkpoints and road blocks. The restrictions imposed by Israel have a gender specific impact and present particular risks for, amongst others, expectant mothers, female students and workers, resulting in the denial of their right to health, education, decent work and an adequate standard of living. The socio-economic instability that these violations have wrought in the OPT – perhaps most notable in the Gaza Strip where severe deprivation is aggravated by the continuing policy of closure – coupled with the loss of many male members of Palestinian society to Israeli detention or violence, has contributed to the stresses of family life and created conditions rife for domestic violence.

Palestinian women are also disproportionately affected by Israeli policies and laws which, through a complex system of permits and administrative bureaucracy, prevent Palestinians with different residency from living together as a family. Palestinians with West Bank identification cards are prevented from residing with their family in occupied East Jerusalem, while Palestinians from the Gaza Strip are prohibited from joining a spouse in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. In addition, arbitrary nationality laws deny Palestinian family members with a foreign passport entry at Israeli-controlled borders. Israel’s denial of family reunification places on many women the burden of raising children in the absence of a father, with the consequent negative economic and financial impact that this brings.

The matrix of restrictions imposed by Israel in the OPT cripples the movement of Palestinian women, and results in additional and multiple violations of Palestinian women’s rights, including the right to freedom from unlawful and arbitrary interference with the home, the right to work and the right to freedom from discrimination in the exercise of these rights. Such policies are implemented in flagrant violation of Israel’s legal obligations as a State Party to the UN Convention of the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, and ultimately represent one of the main major obstacles to the participation of Palestinian women, on an equal footing with men, in the social, economic and cultural life of their country.

Despite the impact of the occupation, Al-Haq is encouraged to note some Palestinian-led milestones in the struggle for the promotion of gender equality and protection of women, including provisions in the latest draft of the new penal code for abolishing the death penalty and protecting women from violence, and efforts to include more women in the judiciary. Further, as the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights stated at the conclusion of her recent visit to Israel and the OPT, human rights defenders and civil society organisations devoted to the rights of women in the Gaza Strip are to be commended for their courageous efforts to promote human rights, accountability and the respect for the rule of law.

Al-Haq calls on the Palestinian authorities to further incorporate women’s rights in policymaking by adopting concrete measures to combat the oppression of women in the private and public spheres and to promote gender equality. In line with Security Council Resolution 1325, which called for the increased representation of women in mechanisms of conflict resolution, Al-Haq urges the Palestinian authorities to strengthen the involvement of Palestinian women in the political sphere, to ensure that their needs and interests are provided for.

For all the strides Palestinian women make, their successes are inherently fragile. Restrictions on the right to freedom of movement contribute to the denial of the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and remain a major impediment to achieving gender equality in the OPT. On International Women’s Day, a day of global action and mass mobilisation, Al-Haq urges the international community to stand in solidarity with Palestinian women and take effective action to ensure that their rights and freedoms under international human rights and humanitarian law are upheld.

Click here for a short video of testimonies on Palestinian women’s life in the OPT.

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