UNRWA LEGAL UNITS ADVOCATING FOR WOMEN RIGHTS
13 June 2016
To help vulnerable women understand and claim their rights, and to strengthen their access to justice, the UNRWA Relief and Social Services Programme in 2006 established legal units in its Women Programme Centres (WPC) in the eight official refugee camps in Gaza.
Forty-six year old Fadwa approached the UNRWA legal unit in the WPC in Nuseirat camp, central Gaza, six months after her divorce to seek legal advice. “An awareness session about women rights in the Women Programme Centre made me aware of the legal unit,” she explained. “The legal unit helped me a lot; they provided me with free legal consultation and arranged for representation in court.”
UNRWA legal units operate from within WPCs; in each unit work three lawyers, hired through the Agency’s Job-Creation Programme. They provide a variety of services to refugee women in Gaza, such as free legal consultation, help with representation in court, or they refer cases to appropriate professional institutions such as international and local non-government organizations.
“When I and my husband divorced, he refused to respect my rights, and he did not allow me to see my children,” Fadwa said. “As I don’t have money to approach private lawyers, I was advised to seek help at the legal unit of the UNRWA Women Programme Centre and they supported me.”
The support received through the legal units is very good and professional, explained another woman, 38-year old Reem, who also approached the legal unit in a similar divorce case eight months ago. “I am now able to see my children, and I could reclaim my rights,” she confirmed.
On average, the legal unit in Nuseirat camp manages around 30 cases per month; in addition, the unit also tries to actively reach out to women in the community, for example through awareness sessions and workshops, to encourage women to step up and seek support and help.
“I left my husband because he beat me; I felt very alone in the beginning, not knowing my rights or where to go,” recalled 32-year old Amal. “I then approached the legal unit, and now, by knowing my rights and how to claim them, I feel much braver and stronger. My message to all women in a similar situation is: don’t be afraid to ask for your rights,” she added.
In total, UNRWA maintains eight legal units in WPCs in refugee camps across Gaza, aiming at empowering women, reducing social, economic and legal gender imbalances and working towards eliminating discrimination against women. In addition to legal support, the WPCs offer skills-based trainings, for example in computer literacy, hair dressing, or traditional handicrafts and embroidery. The centres also try to assist illiterate women in entering the formal education system by providing education and literacy classes.
UNRWA is confronted with an increased demand for services resulting from a growth in the number of registered Palestine refugees, the extent of their vulnerability and their deepening poverty. UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions and financial support has been outpaced by the growth in needs. As a result, the UNRWA Programme Budget, which supports the delivery of core essential services, operates with a large shortfall, projected for 2016 to stand at US$ 74 million. UNRWA emergency programmes and key projects, also operating with large shortfalls, are funded through separate funding portals.
UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly in 1949 and mandated to provide assistance and protection to some 5 million registered Palestine refugees. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank and the Gaza Strip achieve their full human development potential, pending a just and lasting solution to their plight. UNRWA services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, protection and microfinance .
For more information, please contact:
Spokesperson, Director of Advocacy & Strategic Communications
+972 (0)54 240 2659
+972 (0)2 589 0267
Chief of Communications, Arabic Language Spokesperson
+972 (0)54 216 8295
+972 (0)2 589 0724
Public Information Officer - Gaza Field Office
+972 599 609 485
+972 8 2887213