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Int'l Women's Day Proves Strength and Tenacity Year after YearMazin Qumsiyeh, PhD Salem-News.com
Women’s day is about actions against injustice, in deeds, not simply words.
(OCCUPIED PALESTINE) - On this International Women's Day, I am in Amman attending the Lancet Palestinian Health Alliance Conference where most presentations are by brilliant women (thank you Rita Giacaman for excellent coordination/organizing). In this conference, public health issues are discussed in the regional context and in the context of Israeli colonial occupation.
I was inspired mostly by people here: good dedicated experts who present the data regardless of how they get attacked by the powerful elite who profit from war, conflict and inequality.
We saw sobering numbers about health access inequality, lack of accessibility to medical services, political interference in health, increased cancer rates, increased congenital birth defects, communicable disease, deteriorating mental health, torture and forced feeding and much more. From my lab, we had a poster on genotoxicity.
For a report on last year's conference held at the American University of Beirut, see map-uk.org/news/archive/post/275-lancet-palestinian-health-alliance-conference-report. This year is even bigger (235 attendees from over three dozen countries).
I celebrate Women's Day in Amman and then in Palestine (I will be on my way back to the besieged homeland today). I lament how the mainstream media misses the point intentionally. They highlight elite women (some who make the lives of women everywhere more difficult such as Hilary Clinton), and they fail to give credit to those women on the front line who change things (like colleagues and friends Rana Bishara, Rehab Nazzal, Rita Giacaman, and million other activists).
The media even fails to explain the origin of this day. Having an annual dedicated day for women (action) was proposed by Clara Zetkin of Germany to attendees at the International Conference of Working Women in 1910. Inspired by women socialist movements for fair working conditions in the USA in 1908 and 1909, movements grew of women demanding their rights (until then they did not even have a right to vote).
The first women’s day on 8 March 1911 launched demonstration and marches for women workers’ rights (right to vote, right to fair work condition, right to live free from oppression, right to life, against wars etc).
After a long struggle and many lives lost along the way, the UN finally recognized 8 March as an “International” (I prefer global) women’s day in 1977, 66 years after it was launched by brave socialist women. Thus women’s day is about actions against injustice not about Hilary Clinton who stands in the way of change and pledges allegiance to Zionist lobbies!
The First Arab Women’s Congress of Palestine gathered about 200 women and was held on 26 October 1929 in Jerusalem. The demands were rights of women and against the Balfour Declaration, against the racist idea of Zionism, for self-determination, and for full equality (gender, religion etc). They elected a 14 member Executive Committee headed by Matiel E. T. Mogannam.
Mogannam wrote a book titled “The Arab Women and the Palestinian Problem” published 1937. Moghannam explained how Palestinian women in the 1920s were innovative in many ways: lobbying the colonial power, writing in newspapers, and holding the first demonstration in human history that used automobiles with 120 cars in 1928 (gathered from all over Palestine to drive in the streets of Jerusalem). See my book on “Popular Resistance in Palestine: A history of hope and empowerment” (a href="http://qumsiyeh.org/popularresistanceinpalestine/">qumsiyeh.org/popularresistanceinpalestine).
The struggle of women here continues unabated. Many people like me believe sincerely that had women been in charge here, we would have had a free Palestine by now. My mother who is 84 years old showed us by example what giving and self-sacrifice and love of people and land means.
My wife and three sisters are likewise examples of what we all should aspire to do: kind, dedicated, and hard-working human beings. Like millions before them and millions contemporary with them, these women make life livable while many men (and a few women) engage in hurting others and pushing for conflicts and war.
Words are too mediocre and inadequate to express our feelings but I simply want to say to all the women working for peace and justice: thank you and to pledge that we will work with you for more progressive change in our societies.
As males, we must challenge the system we inherited of giving privilege to men (Patriarchal societies we live in). This must be in deed not in words.
For the local situation of Palestinian women today, I urge you to read this remarkable new issue of the excellent magazine “This Week in Palestine” dedicated to our better half: thisweekinpalestine.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/March-215-2016.pdf
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