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Source: United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA)
9 March 2010

9 March 2010
East Jerusalem
For immediate release

On International Women's Day, UNRWA and the EU Celebrate Palestinian Women

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) yesterday kicked off a week of celebrations in honour of International Women’s Day.

Workers at the Agency’s main compound in East Jerusalem were treated to a visit by the Palestinian cinema NGO Shashat. After a speech by Barbara Shenstone, the director of UNRWA’s operations in the West Bank, came a screening of the film Far from Loneliness, which follows the tough pre-dawn journey of three older farming women from their fields to the vegetable markets, as they tell of their relationship to the land. The screening was followed by a lively discussion, led by director Sawsan Qaoud and producer Alia Arasoughly.

Qaoud’s film is one of four produced by Shashat as part of their ambitious ‘Masarat’ project, supported by funding from the European Union. The project aims to encourage public debate on women’s lives in the occupied Palestinian territory, using film as a way to engage a wider audience from diverse social, economic and educational backgrounds. Yesterday’s event was the first in a series of similar events planned throughout UNRWA’s five fields of operation, as part of the Agency’s efforts to achieve gender equality within all its operations and programmes, and among staff and beneficiaries alike.

Meanwhile, further celebrations got under way in Lebanon and Jerusalem, with events showcasing the achievements of UNRWA’s female beneficiaries and exhibit Palestinian-made products. A special event in East Jerusalem today launches a week-long bazaar of goods produced by Palestinian women under the auspices of the Agency’s job creation programme, which provides work for the most vulnerable West Bank refugees.

The programme’s cash-for-work project, made possible by donors including the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid department (ECHO), and the governments of Sweden, Belgium and the US, actively targets female refugees by providing work opportunities to suit social values, and which are physically accessible to women. The event will run at the East Jerusalem YWCA until March 11th in celebration of the achievements of the project’s female employees.


UNRWA provides assistance and protection to Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the occupied Palestinian territory, pending a just and lasting solution to their plight. It does so by offering to a population of some 4.7 million refugees a range of human development and humanitarian services in primary and vocational education, primary health care, social safety-net, community support, infrastructure and camp improvement, microfinance and emergency response, including in situations of armed conflict. UNRWA’s role also encompasses advocacy and actions to address the human rights and protection needs of Palestine refugees. UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions from UN member states.

The European Union is the largest multilateral provider of international assistance to Palestine refugees. Over the period 2000 to 2009, the EU, excluding EU member states, alone has provided more than €1 billion of support to the Agency. The EU and its Member States provided 62% of support to the General Fund in 2009. This funding has enabled human development for the most vulnerable Palestine refugees in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

Masarat is an ambitious Palestinian media project by the Palestinian cinema NGO Shashat, and funded by the European Union. The project aims at promoting awareness of the resiliency and strength of Palestinian women and encouraging public debate of some of their lives. The four films focus on women and young girls from diverse walks of life addressing the complexity of women’s lives in Palestine. Each of the films is unique in its style and subject matter and focuses on women from different social, economic backgrounds and of different generations. An extensive and diverse network of community, cultural and educational institutions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip as well as independent media outlets were involved in the project. The four films are Ghada Terawi’s Golden Pomegranate Seeds, Sawsan Qaoud’s Far from Loneliness and Mahasen Nasser-Eldin’s Samia, and Dima Abu Ghoush’s First Love.

For more information on UNRWA:
West Bank Gender Officer: Rea Bonzi, +972 (0)2 589 0456
Spokesperson: Chris Gunness, +97 2(0)54 240 2659

For more information on the EU's assistance to the occupied Palestinian territory:
Shadi Othman, +972 (0)2 541 5888 ext 867

For more information on Shashat and the Masarat project:
Alia Arasoughly, +972-2)297-3337

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