WOMEN’S ROLE IN LOCAL PEACEBUILDING: Recommendations to better support the work of Palestinian women-led grassroots organizations
In April 2021, young Palestinian activist and journalist Muna el-Kurd caught the global attention when she started an international movement with the launch of the hashtag #SaveSheikhJarrah and tirelessly mobilized online support for families facing eviction from their homes in East Jerusalem. She addressed mainstream media and appeared in front of the UN Human Rights Commission. Other women as well took active part in Sheikh Jarrah’s residents’ meetings, attended hearing sessions at the Israeli courts, organized to keep a street presence in the neighbourhood and provided refreshments for solidarity activists. Meanwhile, Palestinian women journalists were at the frontline reporting the events, with reports of some of them enduring physical assault and arrest as a consequence.
It is not only in Sheikh Jarrah that Palestinian women mobilize for their communities: it also happens all across the West Bank, including East Jerusalem and Gaza; and has been ongoing for decades. The question is why their work remains largely invisible, they often struggle to access support and resources, and their expertise and hard work rarely translate into official decisionmaking power or influence. This paper outlines some of the essential contributions that local Palestinian women peacebuilders are making to their communities and provides recommendations for duty bearers to better support their work.
It should be noted that this paper is not narrowly focused on women engaged in peacebuilding efforts with Israeli counterparts. Rather it defines ‘local women peacebuilders’ in the broadest sense of the word: as women who, in the context of the Israeli occupation, respond to crises, deliver services and accelerate peace in their communities. They tend to work across the peace-development human rights and humanitarian nexus to serve their communities regardless of the continuously changing circumstances and ongoing challenges.