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RAMALLAH: Palestinian women in the West Bank and citizens of Israel have achieved tangible and remarkable successes in recent years – it is easy to see them occupying positions such as deputy foreign minister, governor of a major city, minister , ambassador, judge, company director, or senior security services officer.

However, these achievements do not necessarily reflect society’s belief in the role, effectiveness, status or equality of women with men.

Activist Rula Salameh, for her part, is unhappy with the situation of Palestinian women.

She told Arab News that Palestinian women have not won their rights despite their commitment to fighting alongside men against the Israeli occupation, and that their plight does not reflect the fact that they represent half of the society.

“Women reach high positions in two ways; if the political party she belongs to is strong and connects her, or if she has very influential relatives, they can put her in a leadership position,” said Salameh, from East Jerusalem. “However, if she does not belong to a strong political faction and does not have influential relatives, she will not get high positions.”

Statistics indicate that the percentage of educated women exceeds the percentage of educated men among Palestinians, but men continue to hold critical leadership positions.

Salameh is also angry with female leaders within the community, as she says many refuse to leave positions of power when they reach them for young female leaders when the time comes, while many hold multiple leadership positions simultaneously. , which does not allow others to progress.

Palestinian women’s organizations also grapple with all sorts of gender issues in society, including efforts to enact deterrent laws against so-called honor killings. The disruption of the Palestinian Legislative Council means that no real progress is being made on this issue.

Ghassan Khattib, vice-president of Birzeit University, believes that the situation of Palestinian women is worse than that of their counterparts in other Arab countries, and says that the main approach to strengthen their position is economic independence and increased participation in the labor market, which improves their position within their families and society.

Currently, Palestinian women involved in the labor market represent only about 19% of their total.

“Without women being economically independent, it is difficult for them to have a role, status and voice in decision-making and to contribute to public life,” Khattib said. “How many women directors of companies (are there) and how many university presidents? The society marginalizes women for cultural reasons because it is a patriarchal society.

“The best way to improve the status of women in Palestinian society is through increased education and greater participation in the labor market,” he said.

Safa Hassaneh, an activist, told Arab News that Palestinian women whose husbands are arrested or killed have found themselves forced to shoulder great family responsibilities.

Hassaneh agrees with Salameh that the laws do not do justice to women and that women must struggle to improve their social position and gain representation.

Alia Sobh, another activist from Bethlehem, believes that despite the involvement of Palestinian women in many aspects of society, their position is still weak, referring to the first round of municipal elections held in the West Bank last December, when some candidates for city council seats were unable to place their photos on election campaign posters, and instead had pictures of a rose because their husbands banned them from sharing their images.

In some families and regions, women’s names are listed on wedding invitation cards without mentioning their full name.

Sobh says political parties’ control over women’s unions is an obstacle to enacting laws that bring justice to women and advance them in society.

Meanwhile, the situation for Palestinian women living in Israel looks a bit different from that in the West Bank, as activist Samah Diab from Tamra in the Galilee told Arab News that women’s groups are raising their voices against the Israeli government. .

“Women can change better than men because we don’t deal with numbers, but rather overcome the human side so that we can bring real, real change; the Arab woman in Israel has made progress, but she aspires to do more,” Diab said.

Maqbola Nassar from Arrabeh in the Galilee told Arab News that the adoption of the doctrine of survival by Arab women inside Israel has given them multiple successes, noting that 60% of Arab university students are women, because Arab women see education as a vital strategy. achieve their goals and that women have succeeded in reducing the phenomenon of early marriage and polygamy.

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