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8 March 2007

UNRWA Commemorates International Women's Day


March 8, 2007


Hope still lives

Today, women's achievements across the globe are being commemorated on the occasion of International Women's Day. From my home in Gaza, I wish to speak directly to you, the women of Palestine. Today we not only commemorate but also celebrate your spirit. It is your strength, your courage and your steadfastness that have kept hope alive in Palestine.

Your talents and aspirations are many. In words borrowed from Hanan Ashrawi’s

poem celebrating women, "Women and Things":

"Women make things grow:
Sometimes like crocus
Surprised by rain, emerging fully
Grown from the belly of the earth:
Others like the palm tree with
Its promise postponed
Rising in a slow
Deliberate
Spiral to the sky"


The end of Hanan Ashrawi’s poem hints at the other side of many Palestinian women's lives, to their daily suffering and experiences with injustice. These have been many, worsening again in recent years. Today somewhere a young Palestinian university student will miss her classes, waiting hours for the gate to the barrier to be opened. Today somewhere a young Palestinian mother will be stopped at a checkpoint, unable to reach hospital with her sick baby. Today somewhere a Palestinian mother will not let her children play outside, for fear that a stray bullet could strike.

Each of these experiences is a barrier to hope. Each time that access to education, to health, to safety – to basic human rights - is denied, hope is also denied. It is denied, but will not die. Hope lives in the strength of the women of Palestine.

I empathize with your struggle to realize what is best for yourselves and your families. UNRWA is your partner in this struggle, helping to guarantee education and health and other basic necessities for 4.3 million Palestine refugees. We will continue to work alongside you, ensuring the provision of these essential services.

In closing, I would like to salute the important work done by the over 12,000 women, many of them Palestine refugees, employed by UNRWA in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. Their contribution as teachers and nurses, doctors and social workers, is helping to build a better future for all Palestinians.


Karen Koning AbuZayd
Commissioner General of UNRWA


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