Last Wednesday, 12 July, a special event was held by WCLAC to celebrate the book launching ceremony of Palestinian Model Parliament: Towards Legislation based on Palestinian Identity, Progressive Ideals, and Just Content, a publication which highlights the ground-breaking work made by PMP in developing Palestinian women's human rights 20 years prior.
The parliament began as a series of events between 1994 and 1998 comprised due to the efforts of the Palestinian women’s movement and WCLAC. It was established to influence policies and legislation based on equality, non-discrimination, and respect for women’s human rights. Open discussion within PMP would cover all discriminatory laws affecting all aspects of women’s human rights; this dialogue was transformative in being fearless and upfront about women’s position the Palestinian legal system. At the time of its formation, debates within various sectors of Palestinian society were initiated on legal and social issues which concern women. Within the book, five essays have been penned by the founding members of PMP which address the successes, impacts, history, and activism of the Palestinian women’s rights movement from PMP’s founding until now.
Last week’s event heralded the actors and actions which contributed to the leaps and bounds that Palestinian women’s rights has made thus far, and the ongoing road to equality which is still being paved.
Dr. Sahar al-Qwasmi, President of WCLAC’s Board of Directors, opened the event with a welcoming speech. The basis of PMP is to envision the start of a democratic society in Palestine where women attain access to their rights in the same scope as men.
A round table was then chaired by WCLAC’s director Ms. Randa Siniora who opened the discussion on the experience of PMP from its members and co-founders. Ms. Zahira Kamal began with a speech on PMP’s challenges and future prospects, the model parliament remains as relevant today as it did 20 years ago in regard to amending outdated law which directly affects women in divorce, custody, marriage and more. Ms. Asma Khader followed with a speech on legal proposals for the PMP, and Ms. Saraida Abed Hussein on PMP’s reception and feedback from a grassroots level. The PMP was always interlinked with the wider Palestinian women’s rights movement, and encouraged the dialogue on the women’s struggle to be a part of the wider, public sphere; not the private one.
Finishing the round table was a speech from Ms. Rima Nazzal on divergences in the demands of Palestinian and Arab women in light of current transformations in the region. Due to power relations within patriarchal society, compromises are often made on women’s human rights and alliances between the political and religious powers are always at the expense of women’s rights, under the pretext of “cultural specificity”. As outlined in the book, PMP lived through many eventful periods in the Arab world, most notably the Arab Spring from 2010, and as the spirit of revolution swept through the region, women took their position in aiding revolution; the political became personal. Political developments within the region are negatively impacting women’s human rights, and women are always paying the price.
The event was concluded by two performances: the Oscar dancing group gave an energetic dabke dance performance; and theatre al-Qasr, from the Tubas volunteer group, evocatively addressed the issue of early marriage.
Throughout the event that brought together members of the PMP, and women from other grassroots organisations and local communities, there was the essence of memorial and gratitude to the late co-founder of PMP, and previous director of WCLAC, Ms.Maha Abu Dayyeh. Abu Dayyeh’s daughter Ms. Diala Shammas gave a powerful speech on the importance that collaborating and publishing this book was to her mother, and her steadfast dedication to the Palestinian women’s movement throughout her life. Ms. Abu Dayyeh was a pacesetter and leader in the struggle for women’s rights, and was an unforgettable figure within PMP, WCLAC, and other organisations fighting for the same, just cause.
An emotive letter to Maha by her close friend Margo was read-out by Ms. Shammas, and can be viewed here.
Online book (English): Palestinian Model Parliament: Towards Legislation based on Palestinian Identity, Progressive Ideals, and Just Content.