In the offices of the General Union of Palestinian Women –a bastion for older-generation prominent women politicians– two young Palestinian women listen to the discussions, feeling a little shy in the midst of such veteran advocates.
Amaal, 23, and Ruba, 26, are part of a younger generation of Palestinian women activists who say they are apprehensive and have often felt un-welcomed and even discouraged from participating in the current political scene. However, with enthusiasm sparkling in their eyes, they relate how they, as young women active in media and political spheres, could potentially bring change to the current political stalemate.
“It is hard for us to imagine peace because we did not live it. If the alternative to the on-going conflict is peace, how can we achieve it?” asks Ruba.
Both women agree that the ruling elite – both men and women – have become disillusioned and uninspired after years of failed attempts to bring peace and sovereignty to the Palestinian nation. They believe what motivates young Palestinian women to become activists – either in politics or in the media world – is the understanding that the current situation, with no positive changes in years, is unsustainable.
“A man thinks in binary terms: either peace or conflict. Men do not elaborate on how this could be reached, or how the society would be once peace is attained,” continues Ruba. “As women, we think differently: we are the ones mostly affected and influenced by the situation. So as women, we have to search for a comprehensive sustainable solution.”
However, this is not easy in view of gender and age constraints faced by ordinary young Palestinian women in a traditional society torn by conflict and occupation.
Amaal and Ruba are considered exceptions because they were lucky enough to have their families’ support for their activism. Ruba talks about how she would not be where she is today –the youngest member of a political bureau in the Occupied Palestinian Territories– had it not been for the unconditional support of her family. Amaal is also grateful to her immediate family and community who encouraged her in the quest to become a prominent journalist.
“Palestinian women are the future: they are the ones raising the next generation,” affirms Amaal. “It is thus the duty of the young generation to step up and encourage change; young women and men working hand-in-hand.”
Ruba is enthusiastic about how young men in her immediate environment are becoming more aware of the necessity of women’s political participation at all levels. Amaal also sees positive signs of change and says that as a woman journalist, she feels respected and appreciated by her colleagues.
To mark the 12th anniversary of UN Security Council Resolution 1325, these young leaders were invited to represent the voice of youth at an Open Day event on Women, Peace and Security, held on 11 October in Ramallah, West Bank, hosted by the Palestinian women’s movement and the UN Deputy Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, and supported by UN Women.
Amaal and Ruba called for more such efforts to build the capacities of young women to participate in decision-making processes that affect their lives.
In November, UN Women will support another initiative – a BRIDGE workshop targeting young women as electoral stakeholders, so that other young women like Amaal and Ruba can have their chance to actively participate in peacebuilding, and carry out change.