‘I want to be heard!’ Experiences of marginalisation and poverty from the perspective of Palestinian women

 

Introduction

Organisation: Middle East Nonviolence and Democracy (MEND)

Country: West Bank, Occupied Palestinian Territories

This research was carried out with two groups of women in two communities, Al-Jib and Nabi Samuel, that are close geographically but distanced by the Wall. The goal was to compare and contrast marginalised women and find common denominators between them.
Both groups were trained in the techniques of Participatory Video (PV), which involves a group shaping and creating their own film in an accessible way to explore issues and voice concerns.  PV is empowering, as it enables people to take action to solve their own problems and communicate this to decision- makers and the public. The following steps were taken:

  1. Introduction to PV
  2. Thinking about their film
  3. The Ideas Workshop to discuss issues that would be important to show to the world
  4. Filming
  5. Internal feedback and reflections on the film contents which informed key issues of the research process.

 

Participatory Video

 

Two of the participatory videos from this process are shared below:

 

This film tells the story of how Ikram’s family, in Occupied Palestine, have been divided. Israel operates a coloured ID card system to differentiate between Palestinians living in the West Bank and Palestinians living in Jerusalem. Those with Green West Bank ID cards are not allowed on the opposite side of the Wall where Jerusalem is located without going through a complicated permit application process, which is rarely successful.
Her mother has a Blue ID and her father has a Green ID. Ikram, her father and three sisters with Green ID cards have no access to the rest of the family living in Jerusalem. They cannot live under the same roof; only those with Blue ID cards have freedom of movement to visit the rest of the family isolated behind the Wall. Well-being is unattainable where communities and families are broken up. This leads to unhappiness and stress, as well as insecurity and lack of support. Development initiatives have to address relational well-being as well as material well-being.

Ikram

Participant to PV workshop, MEND, Occupied Palestinian Territories

 

 

In Occupied Palestinian territories, women discussed the difficulties in finding work without having ‘the right connections’ (wasta).

The film talks of how nepotism, power abuse and patronage minimize prospects for positive change.

The film centres on two applicants applying for a position in a government-run health clinic. The less experienced candidate was preferred over the qualified one because she had wasta. The film reveals perceptions that the government lacks transparency and promotes nepotism within its institutions.

Palestinian women

PV workshop participants, MEND, Occupied Palestinian Territories

Main messages

In this research, four overarching issues emerged:

Forced displacement
Israel employs a number of methods to displace Palestinians. The most prevalent are the use of home demolitions and forced evictions, disrupting lives and entrenching poverty:
Every time we try to build – a house, an animal shelter – they [the Israeli army] come and demolish it. They give us a paper saying we are forbidden from building, each time with a different reason. This time they said because it was a nature reserve. (Nawal, Nabi Samuel)
This situation also increases aid dependency. The severing of urban and metropolitan centres as a result of the Wall’s construction only serves to fuel displacement and unequal access to basic services. The revocation of identity cards to enter Israel has also seen a sharp increase, leaving Palestinians status-less, vulnerable to deportation and permanent exile.

Segregation
The Palestinian movement in this area is controlled and restricted by a complex system of physical and administrative barriers, including the Wall, checkpoints, roadblocks, and a permit system. The resulting segregation has isolated family members and friends from one another. It has also vastly limited the opportunities of many community members with regard to work, education and health care:

‘Even when my aunt passed away, I couldn’t say goodbye to her. She was there [in Jerusalem] and I was here, unfortunately’ (Ikram, Al-Jib).

Discrimination
The complex restriction system is based on discriminatory procedures aimed at underscoring segregation. This is done by limiting the number of Palestinians with West Bank ID cards from entering Jerusalem or Israel. Faced with high unemployment and an inability to get a permit, many try to enter Israel illegally to work as labourers.  They are detained and accused of ‘infiltration’ – a security offence. Israeli settlers living in close proximity to these communities do not go through the same system and are free to travel between the West Bank and Israel:

We went to the hearing for my son. They accused him of infiltrating Israel, but he just needed a job. The whole family went. He was sentenced and fined…(Resident, Nabi Samuel)

Land appropriation
Most of the land has been allocated for the benefit of Israeli settlements,  which receive preferential treatment at the expense of Palestinian communities, including with regard to access to land and resources, planning, construction, development of infrastructure, and law enforcement. This has stifled traditional farming practices and contributed to the high rate of unemployment:

My house is encircled by the Wall. There is a gate in the middle that opens up to the main road to the Israeli settlement. My cousin wanted to use it. Why not? It’s our land and that road was our land. The Israeli army caught him, broke his leg and then put him in jail. (Sahar, Al-Jib)

Reference: MEND 2013 in Work with us: How people and organisations can catalyse sustainable change, Brighton: IDS

Images from the Participatory video workshop and filming