As part of activities worldwide to mark 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence, UN agencies and civil society organizations brought together an audience of 1,000 people on 8 December 2011 for the 2nd Central Festival to Combat Violence Against Women in the Gaza Strip.
Held at the Rashad Al-Shawwa Cultural Centre in Gaza City, the event’s main message was to “Stand up! Speak out! End Violence Against Women.” The festival provided an opportunity for Gazans to take a joint stand for women’s human rights. This year’s festival featured a number of performances, including a Palestinian traditional dance (dabkeh) and an original operetta song “Ana Mariam/I am Mariam” specially composed by songwriter Aarab to mark the occasion. The festival also featured films, including “Monsters in the Closet” by the USA National Domestic Violence Association and “The Body” directed by Rita Is-hak. All performances aimed at increasing audience awareness on violence against women as a public issue and a violation of human rights.
In the occupied Palestinian territory violence against women remains a widespread phenomenon. Preliminary findings of a 2011 Violence Survey in the Palestinian Society conducted by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) found that 23.5 percent of Palestinian women have experienced physical violence (17.4 percent in the West bank compared to 34.8 percent in the Gaza Strip).
Speaking at the event on behalf of the participating UN agencies, the Acting Deputy Director of UNRWA Operations in the Gaza Strip, Ms. Cathy Howard said: “A society free from violence against women is something we must strive to achieve, in order to create a safe and secure environment for everyone. Today’s event is a step in that direction where men and women from all over the Gaza Strip have come together to show their support for ending violence against women.”
UN agencies and civil society backing the event included: the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), the United Nations Relief and Work Agency (UNRWA), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the AMAL Coalition to Combat Violence Against Women.
Representing the AMAL Coalition, Ms. Zeinab El-Ghunaimi, Director of the Centre of Women Legal Research and Consulting (CWLRC), thanked the UN agencies for supporting efforts to put an end to violence against women and in building a just and equal Palestinian society.