Zahira Kamal – Palestine

Linked with Women’s Learning Partnership WLP.

She is one of the 1000 women proposed for the Nobel Peace Price 2005.

Ms. Zahira Kamal is the Director of Palestinian women Research and Documentation Center (UNESCO project). She was appointed as the first Minister of Women’s Affairs in November 2003. Ms. Kamal has written a number of articles and studies on Palestinian women, women’s empowerment, peace and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, women and citizenship, enhancing the role of women machineries. (on RICO).

She was part of the International Womens Commission for a Just and Sustainable Palestinian-Israeli Peace
Joint Steering Committees Meeting, Hosted by IWC Member Antigoni Antigoni, July 12-15, Athens, Greece: IWC members of Palestine: … 3. Zahira Kamal, Director, Women Centre for Studies and Research … (full text).

She says: “It is not strange that historical events of Palestine were the driving force that has determined my life. I grew up hating the Israelis without even knowing or meeting them” … and:  “I believe that women have a strong desire and need for peace. I also believe that we are able to work out our relationships and live with each other, or next to each other, in peace and harmony” … (1000peacewomen).

She works for the Palestinian Ministry of Women’s Affairs PMWA and the Women’s Study Center for Legal and Social Consultation WSCLSC (for both not mention in the net), and for the Palestinian Democratic Union PDU (named on: global security.org; and on wikipedia).

Zahira Kamal and Naomi Chazam were jointly awarded the Peace Builder Award by the Southern California Chapter of Neve Shalom/al-Wahat Salam for their support of peaceful coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians. Kamal is a leader of the Palestinian Democratic Party while Chazam is the deputy speaker of the Israeli Knesset … (full text).

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Zahira Kamal – Palestine

… “We like to stress that the women’s movement is part of the national movement. We believe that both personal and national liberation go hand in hand” … (full text).

She says also: … “I believe in the power of women. Women are grounded in the awareness of the sanctity of all human life” … (on USaid.gov).

Find her and her publications: on answer.com; on Women’s Learning Partnership WLP; on source-watch; on Google Book-search; on Google Scholar-search; on Google Group-search; on Google Blog-search.

The Emerging Generation of Leaders.

… With much of the Arab world falling deeper under Islamic control and clamping down on women’s rights, it’s easy to assume that all Arab women are veiled and silent. The idea of an active women’s liberation movement existing within Arab nations seems incongruous. Yet such a movement exists within the Palestinian community, and Zahira Kamal is a principal force behind it. Kamal, the director of gender planning and development for the Palestinian National Authority and a member of the Palestinian Parliament, works for the empowerment of Palestinian women on a broad basis in an environment often hostile to women … (full text).

She writes: … A look at what happens to women in mixed groups (primarily dialogue and track two) may throw some light on why many women prefer all-women groups. As participants of over more than twenty years in a myriad of dialogues and track two activities, our observations are that women tend to be ignored in mixed groups. They are not invited to the planning or agenda setting for the meetings, especially track two meetings. Thus they are not perceived as proactive participants even if they are invited to join the larger groups. As participants, if and when they speak, they are interrupted more than men, and their contributions are frequently attributed to men, as if a comment or proposal coming from a man carries greater legitimacy … (full long text). (My comment: this is totally same with Swiss men).

In the town and village meetings where Zahira Kamal, a member of the negotiating team, often discusses the progress of the Israeli- Palestinian peace talks, men file into the meeting place first, then teenage boys. Finally, young girls and then women enter, almost hesitantly, to stand awkwardly in the comer. It is symbolic of women’s subordinate status in Arab society, and the scene is reproduced daily, over and over again … and: Zahira Kamal has played a large part in this modernization of Palestinian society. Starting from the traditional role of woman as teacher, she become a political activist, aligned with the leftist Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), and since the 1970s has been in the vanguard of the Palestinian women’s movement. She is one of the three women (along with Hanan Ashrawi and Suad Amiry) on the Palestinian team participating in the Middle East peace talks. She is outspoken and direct but, to date, less well known than those delegates to whom the media gravitate. She is concerned with substance, and shies away from the TV cameras … (full long text).

… We believe that peace is possible in the Middle East as it was in other places in the world. We believe that the Palestinian societies and the Israeli society as well, had a strong desire and need for peace. We believe that we are able to work out our relationship and live with each other or next to each other in peace and harmony. We know that women are strong and resourceful people, we are looking forward for your help to bring a new understanding to the situation in the Middle East, and to approach peace building in a way that will promote long -term stability. (full text, 8 pdf-pages).

And she says: … “Of course. It was very difficult sometimes. But actually, I got the support of my family because of the way I was brought up. I was the eldest child in a family of eight, six girls and two boys. My father had married late. He was old when I was born. And he wanted me to be educated, to be good at school, and to be involved in many things. So I used to sit with him and his friends, listening to their discussions of politics and so on. It became a part of me. My father was a mathematics teacher and so I became very good at mathematics, chemistry – all the scientific disciplines. My father wanted me to jump at this opportunity. But he was ill and in hospital when I graduated from high school, and people told him not to send me to university. At the time, I was insisting on going to Cairo. That was my dream. We call Cairo the “Mother of the whole world”. It was at the time of the Abdel Nasser regime, and represented a whole culture, the openness of the Arab world. So I wanted to be there. Naturally, that was a little bit hard at a time when my father was ill. But I said I would refuse to eat unless I was allowed to go. I didn’t know that was a hunger strike. But I threatened to stop eating unless I could go. Of course, no parents like their children to stop eating. Food is very important in our culture and has an absolutely central place. So in the end my father promised me on the Koran that when he recovered he would take me to Cairo. And he did. When other people found out that my father was taking me to Cairo, they decided to send their daughters as well. So my father went to Cairo accompanied by ten young girls; he helped settle each one of us there. This was in 1967. I was a friend of the Arab movement and in Cairo, representing Palestinians in the student union and I became more active in politics” … (full interview text).

1000peacewomen: Zahira Kamal, born in 1945, is a leading Palestinian activist who has worked towards the welfare of Palestinian woman. She obtained a BSc in Physics from Ain Shams University, Cairo, in 1968. She also received a Diploma in Teaching Methodology from the University of Jordan in 1978. She has taught physics and science for many years at the Women’s Teacher Training Center in Ramallah. Currently, she is the Palestinian Authority Minister for Women’s Affairs. Following the death of her father, Zahira Kamal (1945) took responsibility of raising her brothers and sisters and supporting them until they went to university. She was highly applauded by her family and friends for her proactive involvement in promoting women’s welfare and peace efforts. As a result of her political stands against the Israeli occupation of Palestine, in 1979 she was put under town arrest in Jerusalem for seven and a half years, being required to sign in in the Israeli police station twice a day to make sure she does not leave the town.

Zahira has taught physics and science at the Ramallah Women’s Teacher Training Center- run by UNRWA -as well as in other community colleges since 1968. Between 1990 and 1993, she worked voluntarily as head of a leading committee in the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine. From 1993 to 1995, Zahira was the Director of UNDP’s Women’s Development Office in Jerusalem. Following that, she became the Director General of the Directorate for Gender Planning and Development at the Palestinian Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation. In her capacity, she formed an Inter-Ministerial coordination Committee for the Advancement of Palestinian Women.

Kamal has supported and helped to establish many women’s organizations in Palestine. She was a member of the founding board of the Palestinian Federation of Women’s Action- the first in the occupied Palestinian territories. As a member of the Advisory Council of the Palestinian delegations to the Middle East peace conferences, Zahira has actively worked to advance peace. She participated in the Madrid, Washington, and Moscow peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians. Working with Israeli peace promotion groups she has held several meetings for boosting mutual understanding. She is a member of the Israeli – Palestinian Networking and the Jerusalem Link, two energetic Women’s Centers in East and West Jerusalem.

The Israeli violence during the first Intifada in 1987 fostered hatred and intolerance between Israelis and Palestinians. To placate that atmosphere Zahira organized house visits for Israelis so they could touch on the Palestinians’ ordeal and sufferings, an initiative that helped break the ice between the two sides and give them a chance to know one another on a people-to-people level. Those informal house visits opened the door for subsequent meetings in Italy, the United States, Belgium and Greece between Palestinian and Israeli public figures to discuss methods of peace promotion. The meetings in Belgium also gave rise to the institutionalization of women’s dialogue groups and led to the creation of the Jerusalem Link, with the collaboration of the Palestinian Jerusalem Center for Women and the Bat Shalom Center.

The Jerusalem Link served as a platform where both Palestinian and Israeli women had the chance to discuss the issues of conflict and to agree upon common political principles that promote peace. Many of Zahira’s writings have been published both regionally and internationally. In March 2005, she was awarded the Freedom and Human Rights medal in a ceremony in Bern, Switzerland. As a feminist struggling for equality, human rights and the abolition of all forms of discrimination against women, Zahira sees that those rights are inter-related. She indicates, “I believe that women have a strong desire and need for peace. I also believe that we are able to work out our relationships and live with each other, or next to each other, in peace and harmony”. (on 1000peacewomen).

On Nodo50.org: Zahira Kamal: Va nàixer a Jerusalem en 1945. Va ser ministra amb l’Autoritat Nacional Palestina per als temes de dones. Ella és una activa lluitadora en el camp dels drets de les dones i en les qüestions de la pau i la lluita palestina.

Es va graduar en Físiques en la universitat a Egipte en 1968. Va ser activista amb el Front Democràtic per a l’Alliberament de Palestina. Va ser la fundadora de la Federació Palestina de l’Acció de Dones. Va participar com membre a la Conferència de Madrid. Des dels anys 70’ ha estat a l’avantguarda del moviment de dones palestines.

Ella és una de les tres dones (juntament amb Hanan Ashrawi i Suad Amiry) en l’equip palestí que participava en les xerrades de pau d’Orient Mig.

Al any 2005 va ser una de les vuit dones palestines nominades en el projecte de 1000 dones del món per al Premi Novell de la Pau.

Zahira és conscient que les dones palestines han d’emancipar-se a partir de dues forces: ocupació i dominació de l’home, i que una no pot estar subordinada a una altra. (On Nodo50.org).

My comment: she is one of these persons able to consciously open to the other people and thus try to leave the created dream bubble (see: Israel and Palestine in these times).

links:

Social Transformation in an era of globalization, SHS newsletter 09;

Israelis and Palestinians declare for peace, 10/16/2007;

The Google download book: Feminist Nationalism By Lois A. West, 1997, 294 pages.

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