Eight United Nations agencies have co-sponsored the first Palestinian ‘festival’ to combat violence against women, driving home the message that so-called “honour killings” have nothing to do with honour and seeking to break the conspiracy of silence surrounding domestic abuse.
“It is time for action, not words,” UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) Programme Manager in the occupied Palestinian territory Alia El Yassir told the festival in Ramallah on the West Bank. “UN agencies are working as one on this issue and supporting civil societies in their efforts to end violence against women.”
The main message of the festival was threefold:
- Killing a woman has nothing to do with honour. It is a violation of fundamental human rights and freedoms.
- Break the conspiracy of silence surrounding domestic violence. Silence protects the perpetrators, and is the greatest obstacle encountered by women and girls in protecting themselves and their children.
- Youth, especially young men, can play a positive and driving role. Male and female Palestinian youth have the right, duty and responsibility to play a key role in building a Palestinian society free of domestic violence against women and girls.
The emphasis on youth groups at the festival reflected the vital role the young can play, since they account for 48 per cent of the population in the occupied Palestinian territory.
Beside UNIFEM, the UN Development Programme (UNDP), UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), UN Population Fund (UNFPA), World Health Organization (WHO), High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) joined three Palestinian Authority ministries and 15 local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in sponsoring the event.
The festival, with a similar event taking place in Gaza, was part of the global 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence, an annual international campaign from 25 November, International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, to 10 December, International Human Rights Day.