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Standing Up for Women in Palestine - The Struggle for Human Rights, Health, and Justice in Gaza on International Women's Day




International Women’s Day (IWD), founded in 1909, is a day dedicated to celebrating the achievements of women across the world, and achieving gender parity in all factions of society.


This year’s campaign theme for IWD is "#InspireInclusion" while the official theme of the United Nations’ observance of the day is, “Invest in Women: Accelerate Progress.”


Investing in Women for Global Progress

The United Nations theme, “Invest in Women: Accelerate Progress,” highlights a method to address the various global crises that the world is facing, ranging from geopolitical conflicts to soaring poverty levels, and escalating climate change impacts. 


"Today, over 3.1 million people across Gaza, and the West Bank, are in need of humanitarian assistance."

According to the United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, if current trends continue globally, by 2030, more than 340 million women and girls will live in extreme poverty.


Further, close to one in four women will experience moderate or severe food insecurity.



As such, the theme of IWD 2024, denotes a persistent challenge that women face globally, and reflects on the need to invest in women for equitable solutions to gender parity. 



The History of International Women's Day

International Women’s Day, observed first in the United States, and adopted in countries around the world thereafter, grew out of efforts by women activists in the 19th century to promote women’s rights in the workplace, and suffrage in the United States.



a black and white photo of a women's rights march in 1908
The 1908 women's march

In fact, in 1908, an estimated 15,000 women marched through New York City demanding shorter work hours, sustainable wages, and voting rights.


At this time, great unrest and critical debate was occurring around women’s oppression and inequality.


The first National Woman’s Day was observed in the United States in 1909, and held by the Socialist Party of America who coordinated meetings across the country in celebration of women, and critical debate around women’s issues. 


Overall, IWD serves as a mechanism to uplift the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women worldwide.




Further, IWD is an opportunity to highlight the interminable and incessant disparities that women face globally, such as gender-based discrimination, violence, and socioeconomic obstacles within employment and educational opportunities. 



 The Palestine Conflict and Its Impact on Women

As such, we would be remiss not to shine a light on the humanitarian crisis, genocide, and atrocities persisting in the occupied Palestinian territory, which rose to its highest position on the International Rescue Committee’s (IRC) Emergency Watchlist in early 2024.





In fact, Gaza, one of the two regions comprising Palestinian territory, enters 2024 as the deadliest place for civilians across the globe.

Close to 9,000 women in Gaza have been killed in less than six months, according to UN Women

The IRC predicts that in 2024, airstrikes and fighting will continue to have devastating impacts on civilians, and people will struggle to recover and build their lives, given that 60 percent of Gaza’s housing has reportedly been damaged or destroyed. Further, Gaza’s health care system is on the verge of collapse, access restrictions will compound humanitarian needs, and escalating violence in the West Bank will drive humanitarian needs. 



Facts and Figures for Women and Girls in Gaza

  • Approximately 9,000 women killed by Israeli forces in Gaza, likely more hidden beneath rubble.

  • Around 63 women killed daily as conflict continues.

  • Each day, about 37 mothers are killed, devastating their families and leaving children unprotected.

  • Over 80% of women report significant reductions in family food intake, with women eating last and least.

  • Despite operating under extreme conditions, women's organizations receive less than 1% of needed funding, underscoring the need to support local women-led initiatives.



The destruction of infrastructure in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, caused by Israeli airstrikes and escalating violence, has constrained aid delivery, resulted in the genocide of over 25,000 Palestinians (an incomplete count), with over 16,000 being women and children the mass displacement of over 1.7 million Palestinians (80 percent of the population), and school and hospital closures.


Today, over 3.1 million people across Gaza, and the West Bank, are in need of humanitarian assistance. 



High angle view at group of Middle Eastern people receiving hot meals at soup kitchen or refugee support center with volunteer helping


UN women are calling for an immediate ceasefire as well as humanitarian access to facilitate assistance including food, water, fuel, and health supplies at the scale required to meet the full needs of women and girls in the Gaza Strip, and the West Bank.


An estimated 37 mothers are killed daily in Gaza -UN Women

United Nations figures demonstrate that from October 7, 2023, to present, over 25,000 Palestinians civilians were killed, of whom 70 percent were women or children. Further, an estimated 2 Palestinian mothers are killed every hour, and close to 1 million women and girls have been internally displaced. 



Stories of Survival



Countless stories of Palestinian women alleging abuse in Israeli custody are recounted in a powerful March 5 article written by Julia Frankel for the Los Angeles Times.


These women, most of whom requested that their names be redacted for security purposes, retold their experiences of physical abuse and repeated beatings, sexual battery, malnourishment, isolation, and humiliation while in Israeli custody.


Amidst the adversity that women are experiencing as a result of the ongoing war, several women have risen as symbols of strength, hope, and compassion in the Gaza Strip, and the West Bank. In solidarity with these women, SisterLove will use its platform on IWD to uplift the following Palestinian women, who in the darkest of times, and in the horrors of the ongoing war, have demonstrated unwavering strength. 



Hala’s Journey of Resilience


Hala is a forty-seven-year old single mother of four who was located in Al Bureij, the heart of Gaza, when the war in Gaza descended upon her.


Hala was forced to flee her home and seek refuge in a school nearby that was used as a shelter by UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East). Unfortunately, Hala was notified that she could not stay at the shelter because her name was not registered on the UNRWA list for that school.


With no true sanctuary to be found, and countless internally displaced women and children huddled around her, Hala felt a deep sense of resolve to provide unwavering support to those in need. 


Hala, who has a history of courage in escaping a toxic relationship, had previously taken courses on various topics from psychosocial support to gender, violence services, and women’s rights.


Rather than giving up, Hala began volunteering at the UNRWA shelter, providing therapeutic activities for the women, educating women and children on hygiene management, and providing psychological counseling for the women and children. 


In dire conditions of the shelter, overcrowded rooms, and the horrors of war looming over her, Hala became a pillar of hope, and strength, to countless women and children who were internally displaced and seeking refuge at the shelter. For more information on Hala’s journey of resilience, please visit palestine.unwomen.org.



Nourhan’s Story of Survival


Nourhan, who is located in the heart of Gaza City, is a 29-year-old lawyer and activist. Norhaun is an active member of a Palestinian youth programme working to achieve peaceful change through the arts (YC MIC), and actively contributes to the UN Women’s Youth Gender Innovation Agora Forum, which was established to foster gender equality solutions and mobilizing youth engagement across Palestine.


Nourhan, who had attempted to stay in her home despite enduring four previous Israeli-Gaza conflicts, and Israeli airstrikes, was forced to flee her home and seek refuge at her parents’ home in the old city of Gaca where airstrikes were less frequent. However, on October 16, 2023, Nourhan was reminded that no one in Gaza is truly safe when an airstrike hit nearby, and once again, she was forced to flee the building with her niece in her arms. The following day, Nourhan’s world was upended again when a strike on the Al-Ahli Arab Hospital killed hundreds of Palestinian refugees. 


Despite experiencing the harsh reality that as a lawyer, and activist, the causes she used to fight for are not able to protect her or her people, Nourhan continues to endure. Nourhan continues to hope for lasting peace in the face of despair. For more information on Nourhan’s story of survival, please visit palestine.unwomen.org



Bisan Owda on the Frontlines of Film



Bisan Owda is a 24-year-old Palestinian filmmaker who has emerged as a pillar of hope in Gaza, given her resilient efforts to utilize storytelling to illuminate the reality of the Israel-Palestine war, and the atrocities in Gaza. 


Through Owda’s social media videos, starting with the chilling “I’m Still Alive,” Owda offers raw and unfiltered portrayals of life under siege in Gaza. Owda’s videos have garnered international attention, after major news outlets including BBC News, Al Jazeera, and ABC News, shared her work. 


Even after Israeli airstrikes targeted Owda’s office and equipment, forcing her and her family to seek refuge, Owda continued to use her phone to document the horrors of the war. Owda continues, through her resilience, to document destroyed buildings, displaced families, and flickers of hope amongst the rubble and chaos of war. 


Bisan Owda’s documentation of  “I’m Still Alive,” in the midst of war, has sparked countless of marches and protests across the world of people demanding a ceasefire, and an end to the genocide taking place in Palestine.


Follow Bisan Owda’s journey on Instagram @wizard_bisan1 and Tik Tok @wizard_bisan1.



Standing Up for the Women of Palestine

SisterLove stands with the people, and women, of Palestine who have been caught in the cross fire of an ongoing war, who are victims of a genocide, and who are actively experiencing humanitarian atrocities spanning various reproductive justice issues. SisterLove, along with hundreds of advocates, coalitions, and organizations demand an immediate ceasefire, and an end to the occupation of Palestinian regions. 


Staying silent is not an option. SisterLove urges you to call your representatives and demand a ceasefire. To reach out to your legislator, please go to https://ceasefiretoday.com/.


If you are interested in attending a rally in solidarity with Palestine, please go to https://www.gazaispalestine.com/protest. 


For more information on SisterLove, and the reproductive justice movement, go to www.sisterlove.org. Please join us in this fight, sign up to be a SisterLove E-advocate today. 




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