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Source: United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA)
22 June 2009

Commissioner General’s Opening Statement
UNRWA Gaza Women’s Committee Workshop
Gaza, 22 June 2009

Chairman and Members of the Gaza Women’s Committee, female UNRWA Directors from Headquarters/Amman,

It gives me great pleasure to open this workshop of the UNRWA Gaza Women’s Committee, the fourth such gathering since the Committee was established in March 2007.

I am very pleased to note that with each workshop, the Committee continues to grow in its strength of purpose, in the number and dedication of its members and in the recognition of the value and significance of the Women’s Committee and of the role of women in UNRWA and in Palestinian society. This is especially significant given the difficult circumstances prevailing in Gaza.

I particularly welcome the workshop title, "Why Me," and I look forward to the answers that will emerge from replying to that question—and to the next question, which is "What for Me?". Once you know "why,’ ‘what’ will you do about it? Only then will you begin to have an impact on your surroundings.

I was even more encouraged to see that the workshop will address what your Chair has termed "milestone topics," namely, "Means of Bringing About Change" and "Overcoming Apparent Insurmountable Challenges."

It is very important to me as Commissioner General to be confident that the impetus for organizational—and individual—change that we have begun in UNRWA over the past three years is understood, appreciated and will continue, becoming deeper and wider and an irreversible part of the Agency culture. Progress on gender issues is one of the areas where change is most needed and one that provides visible proof that reforms are on their way. The Gaza Women’s Committee is (or can be) a model contributor to such achievements and evidence.

Describing insurmountable challenges as only ‘apparent’, is another demonstration of how the women of Gaza, especially refugee women, do not, and will not, allow obstacles to stop them from taking a hard look at their environment and making plans to change those conditions that need changing, for the sake of both themselves and their families. You will not let anything stand in your way as you insist on, and persist in, making a difference!

I know you will be reflecting as well on the challenges you have confronted and those you have overcome as a committee since your creation, allowing you to make realistic plans for the remainder of 2009. I note that this process of reflection is based on UNRWA’s commitment to gender equality set out in the agency-wide policy adopted in 2007.

I expect you to assess the progress you have made in the "Equality in Action’ initiative in Gaza, an initiative of major importance in UNRWA’s approach to promoting gender justice within the Palestine refugee community, and one which also represents a significant contribution to UNRWA’s efforts to build equality and equity among its staff.

All of you can be proud that one of this Committee’s achievements in 2008-9 has been to enhance the participation of female staff in UNRWA issues, enabling more active involvement in management and policy work. These achievements are inextricably linked to the purposes of UNRWA’s gender mainstreaming strategy and to our human resources gender policy.

The lessons learned and best practices described during this fourth workshop will serve as a useful guide and a good example for developing gender mainstreaming activities in UNRWA’s other fields. The outcomes of your discussions will also make a valuable contribution to the broader goal of reducing the gender gap and reforming UNRWA’s organizational culture, in line with the objectives and goals of wider United Nations reform.

I very much look forward to hearing your thoughts, and those of the field director and our headquarters directors, on all of these topics.

I conclude by extending to the Committee and its Chairman a heartfelt thanks for its excellent work.

And I wish you a productive and successful workshop.

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