AWSEA visits the West Bank - Palestine

Palestine is regarded to have been under illegal occupation by The International Court of Justice, the UN General Assembly and the United Nations Security Council since 1948; according to international law an occupying force is responsible for the protection of the civilians living under its control, Israel however ignores this, routinely committing violations of the Geneva conventions; which was drawn up to ensure that civilians would never again suffer like the Jews of Europe suffered under the Nazi occupation. Today Israel is one of the leading violators of this convention.

AWSEA’s visit to the West Bank hit home the reality of just how bad the situation is for the majority of Palestinians living under the occupation. Palestinians in the West Bank are completely dictated by the Israeli forces in all aspects of their lives; their movement, education, employment opportunities and even access to health care is all controlled or influenced by the occupying forces.

Below is a collage of the Separation wall that is being built right through West Bank. The second picture on the right shows the wall being built around settlements. The wall has such an over bearing and unfriendly presence in West Bank.

Day One, 10th April: AWSEA travelled an hour out of Ramallah to Bethlehem, where we visited Al Mehwar centre for domestic violence. The centre was opened to provide a shelter and a safe escape for girls escaping from domestic violence, the centre is a first of its kind in the West Bank and takes an innovative and unheard of approach when dealing with the issue of domestic violence.

The centre works with the local ministry of social welfare when dealing with these women; it is a group effort from all parties. The centre acknowledged the mistrust that may come from the local community because of the job the centre planned to do i.e. provide girls that have run away from home due to domestic violence a place to stay, any girl leaving her home for whatever reason is culturally considered unacceptable, which is why when the centre opened, to bridge the gap between the community and the centre and to avoid any suspicion of the aims and purpose of the centre it also opened a nursery and a gym; these services would be provided to the local community also.

The role of the centre in a society where suffers of domestic violence are expected to suffer in silence, is much needed and for a change addresses a severe social.

(Above are pictures taken at the domestic violence center, which also has a nursery on its grounds)

AWSEA’s next stop was a centre in Dura called Jamiah; the centre was established in 1961 and is an all purpose centre, it contains within its vicinity a 24 hour health clinic, a library, a nursery and a reception as well as several rooms where they run small projects for local refugee women.

1/3 of all the Palestinian population in the West Bank resides in Dura and 90% of Dura’s residents are refugees who have been forced out of their homes by Israeli settlers. The need for the centre in Dura is thus much needed as it provides support for many of the local refugee and poor families.

The manager of Jamiah, Fatima took us to meet a local family that they provide assistance for; both parents required medical assistance but did not have the relevant funds to obtain it. The mother was bed ridden, she had broken her leg but cannot afford a second treatment to get it fixed (her first surgery was not done properly).

Fatima also took us to a local refugee camp the Al Fawwar Camp, the campsite had narrow roads, and it was over crowded with buildings. In the site we met with several families. It was an eye opening experience to realise that most of these families once owned vast lands and big homes but due to the occupation now lived in small over crowded apartments within a refugee camp, the most heartbreaking reality is that for the children of these families the refugee camp is the only home they have ever known. 

(Above: In the Jamiah center they run embroidery projects, here are some of the designs produced by the women. Some have been framed and hung in the wall of the office in Jamiah).

(Above: A collage of the refugee campsite we visited. The children were happy and smiling, the campsite was built in 1949, sadly this is the only home these children have ever known. The streets in the camp site as shown by the pictures above were narrow and unkept. The flats were small and overcrowded).

Day Two, 11th April:

On the second day of our trip AWSEA travelled to Tulkarem to meet with Enas Abusafa; she is a trained midwife, works with local women’s organisations and has done a vast amount of primary research on domestic violence in the West Bank.  She gave us insightful information on maternal health care in the West Bank and domestic violence.

Regarding domestic violence she found many women were ashamed to admit that their husbands beat them as a result did not speak about their abuse or seek any help. She recalls it taking her 2 years to get three women to open up about the abuse they suffer.

From her research she found many women remained in abusive marriages because they lacked financial independence and had nowhere else to go. She found the best way to empower these women was to provide them with jobs. Many women despite being educated were not allowed by husbands or due to small children were unable to work outside of the home.

(Below: These are pictures of a refugee camp in Ramallah; again a vision of narrow unkept streets, and one picture shows a play ground built at the campsite for the children) 

 Day Three, 14th April:

On the final day of our visit AWSEA visited Al Beera Mother & Child Healthcare Clinic is a governmental funded clinic, it was a stark contrast to the clinics we had visited in the rural parts of Egypt during our visit to Egypt in January of this year. Firstly it was fully employed with several doctors; it provided free check-ups for all women, every Thursday a family planning session was held. There are three main clinics in Beera they are connected to local villages surrounding Beera, the local villages have level one clinics.

(Below; This is one of the governmental run maternal healthcare clinics in Ramallah, the Clinic was well equipped, clean and fully staffed with doctors and nurses) 

AWSEA’s next stop in Ramallah was Al Jalazone Refugee camp; this camp site had some wider path ways than the Al Fawwar camp but was equally as crowded. In the camp site there is a women’s centre, this has several facilities and provides several services for the local women. It has a gym, provides computer literacy classes and A-level tuition for teenagers of the camp. Its facilities are also used to hold lectures and awareness raising sessions for women, their most recent session was one on domestic violence.


(above: the women's center in Al Jalazone camp Ramallah, it had a fully equipped gym and class rooms. It has a computer room and hair salon both of which are no longer in use due to the equipment for these two facilities being stolen.)


Our last stop of our journey was a visit to the Treatment & Rehabilitation Center for Victims of Torture; this center was specially set up for those who have suffered from torture whilst being imprisoned by IDF, many detainees face degrading and inhumane treatment whilst imprisoned when released they are psychologically scarred, the centers role is then to help them overcome this. The center found many men who have suffered abuse and unjust treatment at the hands of the occupation become frustrated and angry and often release this anger on their families. This type of center is much needed in Palestine, many NGO’s work with providing support and income for families but hardly any address the actual issues within the people. The reality is the majority of social and economic problems the Palestinians face is a direct result of the occupation.




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