Women in Palestine, as anywhere across the globe, are subjected to and daily resisting an intricate, mutually reinforcing web of state, social, economic and domestic violence and oppression, continuously violating their rights. The burden of Israeli occupation weighs therefore on many more layers on the daily lives of Palestinian woman than their male counterparts.
The barriers for the progression of women’s rights extends deeper than the effects of the occupation and national liberation. The combination of economic, political, and social oppression creates a different type of oppression that has been forced upon the women of Palestine. When looking at the Palestinian struggle, it is therefore important to recognise that there are many struggles that only together can pave the road to liberation in Palestine. It is vital that these struggles are not disregarding one in favour of another.
In recent years, an inspiring women’s movement has emerged in Palestine as part of the Palestine New Federation of Trade Unions, commonly referred to as the New Union. Women have assembled and organised creating the women’s department of the New Union that was established in 2010 for the empowerment of Palestinian women. Palestinian women face many challenges in the workplace and even face obstacles to their employment the workplace to start with.
No longer are women able to work on the land due to the brutal destruction and seizure of land by the Israeli forces for illegal settlements. Often women find themselves resorting to working in the homes of Israeli settlers where they experience discrimination, racist and sexual abuse. When working in industries, women are even more afraid than men to join a union in their workplace as their unjustified dismissal by the employers is even easier. Women are overworked, underpaid and often face financial exploitation from not only their employer but the agency they got the job through. Even before the distribution of wages women are paid less than men. Part of their salary goes towards the agency before they receive any type of income and woman are often forced to sign a document that states that they have received the correct salary.
The goal of the women’s department is to educate women on their rights and how to fight their oppression in the workplace, and to develop the participation of women in the New Union. They organise and mobilise in order to improve working conditions and to fight against discrimination and oppression of women furthering the goal of equality and liberation for Palestinian women. In the next year, the women’s department aim to:
- Empower and recruit women to become members of their Union
- Increase women’s participation within the New Union
- Raise awareness and educate women on both women’s and workers’ rights
- Campaign and demonstrate women’s rights within society and the workplace
- Defend the rights of workers and improve working conditions
The struggle for women rights for economic empowerment is essential because women’s rights are human rights. The New Union recognises that the way to empower women includes securing labour rights, including the right to work, the right to assemble, organise and to form trade unions.
Despite the trials and tribulations that Palestinian women face day to day with the Israeli occupation and social oppression, they have proven their resilience and that there is no goal too small for them to reach. Not only are they standing up firmly against the Israeli occupation and against societal norms, they are empowering women and giving them a voice in Palestine and within the economy. An imperative voice that has been silenced for far too long.
History has shown us that it is in the struggle that women and men have come together and continue to come together striving for true liberation and equality. It is on the streets, at the heart of the revolution, that women in both Palestine and around the world are drawing in the breath of freedom and, tasting the equality that they have been long fighting for and will continue to fight for.
For Palestinian women, the fight has just begun and the prospect of the women’s New Union movement growing amid an occupation and societal oppression is absolutely inspiring. The real legacy of the women’s movement lays within her union. It is the organising, the protests and strikes. It is in the revolution and the workers' movement across the globe.