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United States of America
22 February 2005
Numerous U.S. programs back Palestinian women's development
State Department February 22 fact sheet details forms of assistance
The United States sponsors numerous programs that support Palestinian women in politics, business, legal empowerment, medical care, food supplies, and education, according to a fact sheet released by the State Department's Office of the Senior Coordinator for International Women's Issues February 22.
Office of the Senior Coordinator for International Women's Issues
February 22, 2005
U.S. Commitment to Palestinian Women
"The beginnings of reform and democracy in the Palestinian territories are now showing the power of freedom to break old patterns of violence and failure." President Bush, State of the Union Address, 2005
Promoting global respect for women is a U.S. foreign policy priority and integral to the Bush Administration's commitment to peace in the Middle East. The Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI), a forward-looking strategy aimed at improving opportunities for all people in the region, has a particular focus on broadening women's political participation and increasing their economic opportunities throughout the region.
. The United States also supports and funds numerous leadership, education, and exchange programs designed to equip women with the knowledge and skills they need to participate in the political and economic spheres in their societies. Palestinian women are frequent participants in these programs.
Roadmap for Peace in the Middle East
Developed by the United States in cooperation with Russia, the European Union, and the United Nations (the Quartet) the Roadmap for Peace was presented to Israel and the Palestinian Authority on April 30, 2003. The plan is a performance-based, goal-driven plan with clear phases, timelines, and benchmarks. It involves reciprocal steps by the two parties in the political security, economic, and humanitarian fields. The destination is a final and comprehensive settlement of the Israel-Palestinian conflict.
The United States is the highest disbursing bilateral donor in the West Bank and Gaza. In Fiscal Year 2003, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) obligated $174 million for programs in the West Bank that benefit Palestinian men, women and children.
The United States is the largest national donor to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestinian refugees in the Near East and also contributes significant amounts to many other UN programs providing assistance to Palestinian women and the entire Palestinian population. The Department of State's Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration has contributed $305.3 million to UNRWA since 2001. In addition, USAID has given UNRWA $37,000,000 in grants since 2001.
Political Participation and Civil Society
Support for Women.
USAID supports the activities of a broad range of civil society organizations that advocate for and represent women and their interests. Many of these organizations work closely with the legislative council and executive branch institutions assuring that women's interests and needs are adequately reflected in laws and policies. The U.S. Consulate's Public Affairs Section in Jerusalem (PAS) has also been active in this domain. Between April 2003 and April 2004, $44,000 in grants went to a number of organizations carrying out programs for women, including a campaign against early marriage and dropping out of school, a workshop to develop leadership skills and training to increase women's awareness of their rights. In addition, the U.S. sent 22 women on International Visitor programs in Fiscal Year 2004, in addition to seven participants in youth exchange programs and three grantees in the MEPI-funded Business Internship Program (BIP).
Access to Political Processes.
Through USAID, the United States supports a variety of civil society initiatives that support women in their efforts to access political processes. These initiatives include a Women's Unit in the Palestinian Legislative Council, assistance to civil society organizations working and advocating around legislation that particularly affect women, and projects that empower, network, and build women's skills.
Women Running for Office.
In the December 2004 municipal elections, 139 women were among the 887 candidates vying for 306 seats. Under a quota system requiring that women hold two seats per council, 52 women were elected to local councils. At least five women received enough votes to be awarded a seat regardless of the quota. Of the women elected, eight--including the first female mayor elected in the West Bank, took part in a MEPI-funded program of candidate training run by the Association of Women's Committees for Social Work. Others participated in other forms of U.S.-funded training by NGOs.
The U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem provided funding for a keynote speaker at the third conference of the Arab Women's Media Center, held in Amman in June 2004. Sixty women from 12 Arab countries participated, including 10 Palestinians (the second-largest delegation).
MEPI Women and the Law Workshop.
More than 70 women from 16 countries, including West Bank/Gaza, participated in the MEPI Women and the Law Workshop from February 16-18 2004 in Amman, Jordan. The conference, which took place under the patronage of Her Majesty Queen Rania Al-Abdullah, was sponsored by MEPI and co-hosted by the Jordanian Ministry of Justice. Mrs. Cherie Blair also attended. The workshop covered four key topics: 1) legal frameworks relevant to women's participation in the Arab judiciary; 2) regional judicial practices; 3) equality in the areas of personal status, including marriage and divorce, guardianship, inheritance, and labor and employment; and 4) interactive skills training on professional networking and mentoring, public legal education, and issue advocacy. This MEPI event was a follow-on to the Arab Judicial Forum held in Bahrain in Sept. 2003. In August 2003, PAS funded a course by trainer/ activist Daryl Glenney for 20 Palestinian women on political campaigning, following on workshop she presented in Ramallah and Jerusalem in January 2003.
Since 1996, USAID-supported programs have granted more than 60,000 loans worth over $27 million to Palestinian women entrepreneurs. These programs have helped thousands of Palestinian women transform their subsistence labor into sustainable, income-generating enterprises. Micro-credit programs for women have proven to be wise investments with an average repayment rate of more than 90 percent, and, as a result, Palestinian banks are more accepting of female loan applicants. Since December 2001, under the Palestinian Economic Opportunity Program for Lending and Economic Development (PEOPLED) implemented by the Cooperative Housing Foundation, an expansion of the Home Improvement Loan Program, 316 women have received loans totaling $1.3 million.
USAID sponsored an emergency employment generation program that included the construction of 89 community and women's centers in the West Bank and Gaza. Courses to increase business, computer literacy, management, and other skills have been conducted in these centers, with many of them specifically directed toward women and youth.
The U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem sponsored a 2-day workshop and a roundtable for 28 women in August 2003 featuring an American speaker, Karen Kerrigan, on women in business and entrepreneurship.
Mothers and Children.
The USAID-sponsored MARAM Project is a $29.3-million effort to improve healthcare for mothers and children in the West Bank and Gaza. USAID has provided $3 million for vaccine procurement for women and children.
USAID has supported food aid programs for the most vulnerable populations, totaling $29.5 million.
Through the USAID Democracy and Governance portfolio, integrated health/information/awareness/access services provided by civil society organizations are extended to particularly marginalized groups of women, including Bedouin, the disabled, and the profoundly impoverished.
The State Department's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) provides important U.S. support to Palestinian women through the prestigious Fulbright Program. Since 1999, nearly one-half--125 out of 280--of all Palestinian participants are women who pursue academic study and scholarly research in a variety of fields such as international relations and conflict resolution, education and psychology, information technology and business administration. The State Department brought five women Fulbright master's degree students to the U.S. in Fiscal Year 2004. The Fulbright Program with the West Bank and Gaza is one of the largest in the Middle East among non-commission countries.
The Hubert H. Humphrey Program.
Part of the Fulbright Program, the Humphrey Program brings mid-career professionals from developing countries in the Middle East, Asia, Africa, Latin America, Central and Eastern Europe, and Eurasia to the United States for an academic year. Fellows combine graduate-level academic work with a professional affiliation in the public, private, or non-profit sectors. Fellows are placed in non-degree programs at universities around the United States in clusters according to professional and academic interests. Two Palestinian women in the last 2 years have received a Humphrey Fellowship valued at $50,000 each. A woman with the Institute of Modern Media at Al-Quds University was the 2002-03 Fellow in journalism at the University of Missouri. In 2001-02, a woman from the Center for Palestine Policy in Nablus was a Fellow focused on public policy and NGO development at the University of Washington.
USAID's Master's Degree Scholarship Program.
Started in May 2000, this program was designed to provide competitive scholarships to Palestinians for graduate-level education in the United States for potential private and public sector leaders and managers. The purpose of the program is to address the current shortage of qualified managers in sectors that are critical to the Palestinian economy, such as business administration, information technology, economics, banking and finance, and health administration. To date, the number of scholarships and breakdown per field stands at: 32 in Business (MBA or related), 11 in Public Administration, 15 in Information Technology, 9 in Urban Planning, 7 in Water Resources, 9 in Public Health, 2 in Law, and 5 in other fields (Economics, Educational Administration, Commercial Diplomacy, Political Economy, International Economics). Fifty-eight scholars from the West Bank and 32 from Gaza (a total 57 men and 33 women) were awarded scholarships. Of the 77 scholars who have completed their studies, 53 (86 percent) have returned home eager to contribute to their communities. Fifty of them have already found meaningful jobs: one is chief of electoral affairs at the Palestinian Central Election Commission; another is a trade specialist at the Ministry of National Economy; and a third works as an engineer for a major public works program.
Presidential Scholarship Program.
Launched in September 2003, this program provides 70 master's degree scholarships in the U.S. to Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza in priority fields of study that are critical to the development of the Palestinian economy and society and to the fostering of future leadership and reform. All 70 scholars have been selected, with 36 women and 34 men from Gaza and the West Bank.
Higher Education Support Initiative (HESI).
USAID provides full tuition undergraduate scholarships to talented and needy Palestinian students attending local universities and colleges. Through efforts to support women in university and colleges, 232 of the 430 (54 percent) of the beneficiaries have been women.
Community Services Program.
USAID has supported Palestinian basic education by constructing or renovating 1,900 educational rooms and 396 kindergarten rooms since 1999. These and other efforts in basic education benefited more than 575,000 Palestinian females.
(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: