A Future at Stake: Recommendations to Include Palestinian Women and Youth in Political and Peace Processes
When on 15 January 2021 Palestinian legislative elections were announced, the new year started out on a note of tentative hope. Palestinian women and youth who have had little to no opportunities in their lifetime to cast votes or run for office could not help but get energized. Just a few months later, by late May 2021, any optimism about the new year was gone. By this point, not only had elections been postponed indefinitely, but 256 people (23 girls, 43 boys, 40 women and 150 men) had been killed during the Israeli bombing of Gaza and dozens of families in Sheik Jarrah, Silwan and elsewhere continued to be at risk of imminent eviction from their homes.
At the same time, it was clear that the events of those weeks had not silenced Palestinian women and youth. Quite the opposite. Muna el-Kurd and her brother Mohammed remain visible: they are gathering online support, speaking to mainstream media and appearing in front of the UN Human Rights Commission. Young activists mobilize tirelessly online for international awareness and solidarity. Less visible but impossible to ignore were also the women on the ground mobilizing, documenting, protesting and reporting on the frontlines – at great personal risk with some of them subjected to physical assault and arrest.
This mobilization happened despite the odds and perhaps because Palestinian women and youth have few places to go other than social media, international platforms and the streets. Panning back to the political landscape, the picture remains unchanged. Palestinian leadership and officials are overwhelmingly male and over 50 years of age. In the absence of democratic processes, none of the momentum gained by women and youth is set to translate into official roles or influence. With the indefinite postponement of the elections, many women and youth cannot help but feel that a crucial opportunity was lost.