Department of Public Information · News Coverage Service ·
4 November 1994
PALESTINIAN WOMEN LACK VOICE IN SHAPING FUTURE SAYS UNDP REPORT
Equal-Opportunity Civil Service, Training, Credit Are Needed
AMMAN, 4 November (UNDP) -- Despite dramatic changes in the role of Palestinian women, their participation in decision-making in law, health, education, labour organizations and financial institutions continues to be marginal, says a new report by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). "Unless women have a voice in decision-making bodies, their rights and emerging needs will most likely be overlooked," the report cautions.
The 169-page document, "
At the Crossroads: Challenges and Choices for Palestinian Women in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip
", addresses the needs of Palestinian women and identifies concrete steps that could ensure their full participation in nation-building and sustainable social and economic development. The report was compiled by a fact-finding mission fielded by UNDP earlier this year as the organization sharply expanded its 14- year old Programme of Assistance to the Palestinian People. The report was funded by the Government of Norway. It will be launched in Amman, Jordan during the Arab Regional Preparatory Conference for the Fourth World Conference on Women on 5 November 1994.
Women in a traditional Palestinian society had limited or no access to formal resources, services or political power, according to the report. They were restricted to the private world of their homes and to household-related activities, while men earned income outside the home and made important decisions. With the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, a significant part of the Palestinian population was dispersed as refugees, displaced persons, migrant workers or political exiles. Today, an estimated three million Palestinians live abroad, while only two million live in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Women became wage earners, fighters, refugee camp workers and heads of household. Currently, women head almost 40 per cent of the households in the West Bank.
The report identifies three priority areas for action:
** Governance -- women have had no representation in the local municipal administration and village councils -- the only form of self-government in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. "Attempts should be made to raise the consciousness of municipal authority representatives and village councils to introduce the mechanisms for responding to women's needs," says the report. "The first and foremost policy action regarding the establishment of the Palestinian civil service should be a proclamation that it will be an equal opportunity civil service," it states.
** Human Resource Development -- human resource development for women, both in vocational and training facilities, tends to focus on skills in traditional areas, including sewing, typing and hairdressing. "As economic opportunities expand, it is essential that women have access to diversified training," says the report.
** Economic Participation -- the economic contribution of Palestinian women is often overlooked because of low economic participation rates and small or no remuneration in the agricultural and service sectors, where women are mostly employed. During reconstruction, "it is essential that systems being put in place take into account women's economic role and ensure that women are included in the economic rejuvenation." Credit facilities, which play a role in this process, should be accessible to women.
The report calls for partnership between men and women if Palestinians are to succeed in their quest for independence and prosperity. "History is full of examples demonstrating that, while women actively participate in pre-independence political struggles in various parts of the world, they are often excluded from public life once independence is attained," says the report. It concludes that Palestinian people and their leaders can either seize the opportunity to build a society based on equal and full partnership or risk losing the vital contributions of one half of the population.
At the Crossroads: Challenges and Choices for Palestinian Women in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip is published in English by UNDP. It is available free from UNDP, Gender-in-Development, Room: DC1-2032, One United Nations Plaza, New York, NY 10017, USA Tel: (212) 906-5091.
* *** *
For information media - not an official record