Palestinian women broadcast revolution
Vision of Palestinian state materializing as female presence becomes increasingly significant in all areas of life: One-fifth of ministers in Fayyad government are women, woman commands most important district in West Bank, and sounds of first feminine radio are emerging from Ramallah. How will men react?
Alongside the far-reaching achievements presented by the Palestinian government in its latest annual report, an additional, feminine revolution is taking place in the West Bank, touching on issues which have been considered taboo until recently.
The female presence in the Palestinian government institutions has become increasingly significant, and now – despite all difficulties – women are making their way to the top in other civilian areas, but also within the ranks of the security organizations.
The Nisaa FM radio station broadcasts from Ramallah six hours a day and offers programs dedicated to Palestinian women, many of whom have already added it to their list of favorite stations.
The station is run by only 20 crewmembers, most of them women, who attempt to affect the Palestinian agenda with their voices, especially when it comes to the status of women in the Palestinian Authority.
Special attention is given to feminine success stories, as well as the discrimination which is still evident in many areas of their lives.
Ramallah's feminine voice. Nisaa FM studio (Photo: Asem Rimawi)
"We want women to get to know each other," explains Nasrin Awad, who hosts the "Café au Lait" program, between playing a song to her listeners and talking to one of them.
Despite being a small station, its aim to broadcast 24 hours a day has managed to slightly threaten the social order in the Palestinian society. This same feminine power broadcast on the radio may serve as the opening shot for what appears to be the first feminine radio in the PA, and perhaps in all of the Middle East.
No more 'honor killing'
One of the prominent places for the formation of the feminine Palestinian revolution is the legal arena. Only recently, and after women's organizations and human rights groups have been denouncing the extent of the "honor killing" phenomenon for years, the PA decided to remove the concept from the Palestinian agenda.
The PA's criminal law, which tended to show leniency towards such murders and mitigated the sentences of those responsible for them, has been changed following a Palestinian government decision that it would now be recognized as a regular murder.
Nisrin Awad. Palestinian women's radio connection (Photo: Asem Rimawi)
Until recently, men who murdered their wives would not have been prosecuted. When the legal system decided to be strict, the murderer husband would have spent several months behind bars. On the other hand, a woman who murdered her husband under similar circumstances would have judged according to the strict letter of the law, and would sometimes face a death sentence.
This revolutionary amendment constitutes a deep change taking place in the PA in the past two years, and may be seen as a first sign of the beginning of a golden era in terms of the status and rights of women.
Positive trend, but road still long
This amendment has been welcomed by Palestinian Tourism Minister Khouloud Daibes, a feminine Palestinian success story herself. "This is the result of a trend, a guiding hand of a clear policy of the leadership and government. This is undoubtedly an important statement as far as the Palestinian woman and the war on violence against women is concerned," she explains.
"We are witnessing a process of breaking free from conventions. It isn’t always free of resistance on the part of the men, but the public is definitely beginning to explain our presence," Daibes rules.
She notes, however, that "it's clear to me that the more progress we make, the more pressure men will exert after feeling that they are being pushed aside, but the responses are mostly positive. Our effort will continue, and won't stop here."
Daibes believes that "what is happening now is a clear message from the government and from the leadership to the Palestinian society that the women is a partner, and can be a full partner, in any decision making process. It's time for women to get what they deserve and receive positions, as long as they are indeed worthy of them."
But the integration into the government is not the final point in the Palestinian feminine battle, at least not as Daibes sees it. "We aspire to increase women's participation in the labor market and lead to their integration in other businesses and matters. Women must be involved and have a greater influence."
Few but outstanding
Despite this progress, as significant as it may be, the Palestinian society remains extremely conservative. According to figures, only 14% of women go out to work, although recently they have been receiving high-ranking positions with a great amount influence.
Five of the 24 ministers in the Palestinian government are women. Two women even head different municipalities across the West Bank, one of them running the PA's most important city – Ramallah.
Strong governor. Dr. Leila Ghanem
Dr. Leila Ghanem is the governor of the Ramallah area, the PA's political and security nerve center. She used to serve as a senior officer in the Palestinian General Intelligence Service and insists on wearing a head cover.
Ghanem is considered the Palestinian president's first representative in the region and holds meetings attended by commanders of the security organizations and heads of the other government departments, all of whom are subject to her by law.
The general female presence in the PA's top echelon does not end here. A woman has been appointed commander of one of the Palestinian police stations, and the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics is also being run by a woman.
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