Interview with Khawla Azraq, Director, Psycho Social Counselling Centre for Women (PSCCW)

Why is lobbying for the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) important for Palestinian society at large?

Palestine ratified CEDAW in 2014, which was an important step toward the realization of women’s rights. The gap between the legal framework and reality remains significant and women face multiple forms of violence and discrimination: Early marriage of girls, verbal and sexual abuse, physical and psychological harassment along with a long list of violations of women’s economic, social, political rights. We do believe as women right defenders that CEDAW will be an effective tool to achieve equality between men and women. Since the formal approval of the convention, Hizb ut-Tahrir, a fundamentalist Islamist party, organized many activities against this convention, since they believe it contradicted Islamic sharia. PSCCW decided to organize awareness campaigns targeting mainly youth from both sexes to explain this convention and educate them through implementing this project. The project called “CEDAW Friendly Youth’s Groups” encouraged young people to play their role as agents of change, and to advocate for women rights as part of human rights. We will target 160 youth in the West Bank.

How can a woman organization help women during Corona?

Part of PSCCW’s response to COVID-19 was to create an initiative called “From Women to Women, Together We Survive”. The idea of this initiative is to enhance the solidarity between women and to increase community commitment to support women during crises. The initiative includes different aspects of support, psycho-social and legal support, relief services, and raising awareness.

PSCCW has witnessed an increase in GBV behaviour during this pandemic crisis and according to statistics; psychological violence is the most common type of abuse. This is further aggravated by economic crises, mainly due to loss of work, social violence sexual and physical violence.

Our initiative used social media tools (Facebook, Zoom meetings) to reach a wider audience. We published key messages to women to help them deal with the difficulties resulting from the crises, messages for caregivers and men to avoid domestic violence. We reached 180,000 people.

The reality of human rights in Palestine is highly violated mainly because of the continuing Israeli occupation and the structured and systematic violations against Palestinian fundamental rights in all aspects of life. In addition, there is notable absence of serious desire of the Palestinian government to create real change vis-à-vis the status of women. This is manifested in permanent postponement of approving required legislation, in particular “Family protection Law“ and the implementation of CEDAW. Because of this, we have witnessed increase in all forms of violence against women.

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