Media briefing at the Palais des Nations by Maryse Guimond, UN Women Special Representative in Palestine

From 10 – 18 June, UN Women Special Representative in Palestine visited Gaza and met with representatives of women-led organizations providing vital services on the ground. This is a summary of her briefing to the media upon return at the Palais de Nations, Geneva.

I have just finished a one-week mission inside Gaza. What I have seen defies description. The moment you enter at Kerem Shalom crossing, and the fence closes behind you, you feel that you are locked into a world of devastation. Homes, hospitals, schools, universities, day care centres have been demolished. As you move toward the middle area, all you see are crowds of people –j men, women and children – in makeshift tents, trapped in a world of scarcity.

More than one million people in Gaza are in constant displacement to nowhere safe. There is nowhere safe for women and girls in Gaza, many of whom have already been displaced multiple times (5-10 times) and have had no access to basic services. People are moving to any available open space, including roads, agricultural land, and damaged buildings. They are displaced into increasingly smaller areas that are unable and unequipped to support them.

After nearly nine months of war, the population has been almost entirely dispossessed of the means and capacities to ensure food security, shelter, health, and livelihood. Women were asking me, "When can we go back to our homes?" Each displacement has brought more loss and fear.

The people of Gaza are asking for the war to stop. Every day that this conflict continues brings more destruction and killing. There must be an end to this. “Boys and girls were asking me when will this war be over,” and I had no answer for them.

Gaza is more than two million stories of loss. Every woman I met has a story of loss. More than 10,000 women lost their lives. More than 6,000 families lost their mothers. One million women and girls have lost their dignity, their homes, their families, their memories.

During my visit, I met with women-led organizations who, despite the challenges of war, destruction, and reduced funding, continue to provide vital services. Prior to my visit, in a meeting with one of these organizations, they emphasized, "the question is not what women need; the question should be what they don't need. Women don't want to die, they don't want to bury their loved ones, they don't want to be left alone to suffer.” My experience in Gaza clarified the gravity of this message. Palestinian women’s organizations provide life-saving services, such as shelters and psychosocial support – despite facing significant challenges, such as destruction of their offices, safety risks, and reduced funding. It is essential to provide financial support to ensure they can sustain their vital humanitarian efforts and enhance the representation of women in decision-making forums.

It is crucial to protect the rights and dignity of the people of Gaza, especially women and girls, who have borne the brunt of this war. We are watching this live on social media and tv every day.

Women tend to step up when there is a crisis, we have seen this across the world and we are seeing this across Gaza. The women whom I have met have called for an end to the war, while at the same time responding to the situation they are facing, their families are facing, their communities are facing. Conflicts are never gender-neutral, and this is why it is so critical that we all ensure that men, and women of all ages sit at decision making tables as well as fully access humanitarian aid.

Read more updates on UN Women’s work in Gaza.