Linking together for human rights

Palestinian Women’s Voices Matter 2020

 CADFA’s Palestinian women’s visit to the UK for International Women’s Day has taken place every year in March since 2006 (except for one year when it was replaced by a women’s visit to Palestine).  Each year, this is an exciting event full of meetings, visits and events focusing on International Women’s Day. Giving Palestinian women the chance to speak about their lives and experiences is particularly important at this time when the US have announced their support to Israel in taking over more Palestinian land without including any voice from Palestine,  ignoring Palestinians’ love for their own country or the human rights violations they have been suffering.
The 2020 visit was an exceptional success. The visit built not only on our years of running visits, but on many years of CADFA women’s links in particular.  This time, the visitors six women from Abu Dis who had all previously been involved in different ways in CADFA’s work there, some of them for many years: Dr Fadwa Al-Labadi, professor of gender studies from Al Quds University and a trustee of Dar Assadaqa had hosted our visitors and led many groups of women to the UK; Fathea Abu Hilal last came to London with CADFA in 2007 but has done lots of work with CADFA visitors and volunteers in the UK; Roudaina Hamdan, also a trustee of Dar Assadaqa, was involved in our teachers’ exchanges in both directions in 2016 and teaches at a school twinned with a Camden school. ImShadi, Eman Salah and AbeerEriqat have also been involved with CADFA and Dar Assadaqa. This was a great group: they had the experience and knowledge to speak about Palestinian women in many contexts, and they immediately formed a solid group with the CADFA women in Camden, while extending their interest and links to many good people across the country.

The visit began in London with an induction session at Café Palestina, visits to Camden women’s centres and a short introduction to London.  A cooking session at Café Palestina which worked as a cookery lesson for others was particularly memorable. The group then split into small groups, travelling to the following towns where they met women from Palestine groups, women’s centres and other organisations and contributed: Truro, Salisbury, Worcester, Reading, Hastings, Chichester, Whitstable and Bradford.

CADFA had made a handbook, a handout for meetings and the visitors had prepared presentations. Talking, cooking together, visiting and comparing built strong interest on both sides. There were many public events – some were International Women’s Day Events for women in particular butmany of them were mixed. There were many useful exchanges in small and large meetings and an acknowledgement of how much people had learned. There were some reports of the visit in local papers. The outcomes were much optimism and plans for new groups, new partnerships and future activities.

The women regrouped in London for a number of final events. These included a Palestinian Voices Matter walk/demo going into the middle of London where the Palestinian women spoke on the stage at Trafalgar Sq in the Million Women Rise IWD event; talks at SOAS, at Crossroads Women’s Centre,a media workshop and a really lovely International Women’s Day event at Café Palestina with memorable contributions from the UK too, and from Basma (Palestinian via Lebanon) as well as from our women friends.

Evaluations from the Palestinian women included

“It was important… It was good to share international women’s day with women there… I learned to express myself and describe the situation in Palestine… I found the women there to be active and serious…”

And from the UK:

“There were lots of good points. Pre-comms were clear and the group arrived on time and in good form. The women were happy to be here and responded positively to everything they faced. The meetings went very well …(our event was) well attended. The women did an excellent job, presenting to audiences and informing them about life in Palestine. We gained support and made useful connections.”

“We really enjoyed having the women visitors with us and hearing their moving and brave accounts and their steadfast approach. They are lovely people. It would be good to know how they get on.”

The very end of the visit was difficult as Palestine took coronavirus seriously earlier than the UK and our friends rushed back, some worrying about whether they would get across the border to see their childrenand went back straight into quarantine.  However, overall, the visit was extremely positive and led to strengthened links –online meetings between women in Britain and Palestine and plans for future links both cross-country and between CADFA and many new partners in the UK.