In accordance with Economic and Social Council Resolution 2003/42 on the situation of and assistance to Palestinian women, the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) issues periodic reports on the status of women and girls in Palestine, which provide a comprehensive overview of progress made and challenges faced in the advancement of the political, social, economic and human rights of Palestinian women and girls. The reports draw on statistics collected by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) and on the findings of national and international organizations and United Nations agencies, including the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), and the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women).
The present report reviews the status of women and girls in Palestine over the period July 2012 - June 2014, outlining positive developments in and significant challenges for gender equality. The first chapter presents the political situation in Palestine during the reporting period and the impact of the ongoing Israeli occupation on women's rights. It shows that, as a result of gender discrimination, women are particularly susceptible to poverty and suffering brought about by periodic escalations of violence. The chapter also describes relevant political developments in the State of Palestine and analyses their implications for women, including General Assembly resolution 67/19 that grants Palestine non-member observer State status in the United Nations. Given the extent of the devastation caused by the 50-day military offensive launched against the Gaza Strip by Israel in July 2014, a brief update of this operation is provided although it occurred just after the close of the reporting period.
The second chapter sets out the demographic and socioeconomic factors, including poverty and food security, that affect the lives of women and girls in Palestine. Since a blockade was imposed by Israel on Gaza in 2007, the population has struggled to survive. The effective closure of the tunnel economy by Egypt in July 2013 pushed households further into economic insecurity, with young women hardest hit by the ongoing employment crisis. The resulting food, fuel and electricity crises have exacerbated women's vulnerability, forcing them to stretch their coping strategies to the limit. Meanwhile, the livelihoods of Palestinians in the West Bank continue to be negatively impacted by restrictions on the movement of people and goods as a result of checkpoints, the construction of an extensive system of walls and the strict permit regime imposed by Israel on Palestinians seeking to move between Gaza, the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Israel. Women in the West Bank's Israeli-controlled Area C, Hebron and East Jerusalem tend to be affected the most by the adverse impacts of movement restrictions, including limited access to health services.
Despite high education levels among women, stark gender disparities persist, including high unemployment, low wages and low participation rates in the formal labour market. Female unemployment tends to be highest among better-educated women, demonstrating the continued mismatch between the skill sets of educated women and labour market demands. Moreover, violence against women and girls remains a serious issue, despite the implementation of a number of commendable measures, including the governmental endorsement of the national referral system for victims of violence in December 2013.
The third chapter examines women's political representation and rights. Notwithstanding high levels of educational achievement and strong participation in civil society, Palestinian women remain underrepresented in public life. Interventions aimed at mainstreaming gender within the political system have not been fully implemented and women's political participation has generally been limited to lower levels of decision-making. Disparities also exist between the West Bank and Gaza with regards to gender-sensitive legislation and political representation.
The reporting period saw advances in efforts to align national legislation with international women's rights standards, including those set out in Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security. The accession of the State of Palestine to the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of
Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) was a historical step for Palestinian women's rights. As the occupying power, Israel is responsible for reporting on the situation of women in Palestine to the CEDAW Committee, but refutes this responsibility. Furthermore, a number of measures and reforms have been put in place to address violence against women in Palestine, in line with the Palestinian National Strategy to Combat Violence Against Women (2011-2019). However, discrepancies persist between CEDAW commitments and the formulation and enforcement of policies and laws.
The present report concludes with a set of recommendations for decision-makers aimed at promoting the realization of Palestinian women's social, economic and political rights amid ongoing occupation and periodic violence. They encompass legislative and judicial reforms and programmes to advance women's socioeconomic and political participation.