From where I stand: Raja Shahwan
Date: 04 November 2016
I insisted on completing my Bachelors degree while I was already married and had three children. When I started looking for a job, even my best friend said I should focus on caring for my children and husband. My cousin said. ‘Why would someone choose you when many more are out there looking for a job.'
The biggest barrier to women’s participation in Palestinian society and in politics is that women are not even aware of the rights that they have. Making them aware is the first step. Another barrier is the attitude of the society, of families and of men. They say women cannot take hard or rational decisions because of their ‘soft hearts’.
For four years now, I have been working as a health educator with the Islamic Relief Organization. I am also a member of the ‘Women Local Committee’ in Gaza. I volunteer there two-three times a week, conducting awareness raising and training sessions for women to build their knowledge and leadership skills. We support them in resolving all kinds of problems—from recovering their inheritance to accessing services when they experience violence.
My advice to women—you cannot afford to wait for anyone to give you rights. Women have to take the initiative and claim their rights.
I plan to participate in the next municipal elections. I believe that I have the expertise, the willingness and also the strength to change our society for the better.”