Women in Popular Resistance

At the end of March 2014 a group of 25 women activists, of different ages, with a varied background and from different location in Palestine, participated in a internal workshop to try to better understand their circumstances within the popular resistance and to share their frustrations, angers and motivations.  The main goal of the conference was also to put a common frame and to share political values and vision of the future to decide, at the end of the conference, if they wanted to create a group of women activists active in the popular resistance or not.

palestinian womenPalestinian women have struggled side by side against the Israeli occupation since the very beginning starting with the establishment of the first Zionist settlements in the 19th century. Women have played an active role in the resistance movements, following the same patterns and challenges of the struggling Palestinian history. Lucy Nusseibeh, founder-director of Middle East Nonviolence and Democracy (MEND) and director of the Institute of Modern Media at Al-Quds University, explains the beginnings of the women’s nonviolent resistance: ” Palestinian women have used nonviolent approaches since the very beginning of the conflict early in the last century. During the British mandate, for example, they organized petitions to the British parliament. They also held a mass demonstration against British and Zionist policy as early as 1920, and in 1929 held the first Palestine Arab Women’s Congress in Jerusalem that drew over 200 delegates”1.

After the 1948 and 1967 wars, when the Committees were starting to work, four women committees were established: the Women’s Work Committee, the Working Women’s Committee, the Palestinian Women’s Committee and the Women’s Committee for Social Work. During the first Intifada, women role was so prominent in their leadership “setting up popular relief committees as nonviolent alternatives to the constantly encroaching Israeli system, and running both families and institutions while Palestinian men were arrested in droves”2. The first step of the meeting, that brought these activists together, was to clarify and share some individual stands and understandings on the popular resistance. From one side was important to define the concept of popular resistance.

Obviously, women have their own definition of popular resistance funded on their own experience but most of them shared years of joint struggle, fact that is also a source of conflict between them given that their personal issues also merge with the already uptight context. The relationship between the women of the group and the management of their personal issues are crucial to build a common framework of work and a healthful atmosphere. Furthermore, the workshop tried to see how women were, and could be, taking part in the activities related to the resistance and which was and should be their role. Linked with that, the group discussed how to measure and fight the level of tiredness and how to define some reliance mechanisms. In fact, after shared the definition and understanding of popular resistance, one of the main goals of the meeting was to share the common problems related to the struggle and strength the network and relationship between them to knit a mutual back-up mechanism.

With the Oslo agreements and the establishment of the Palestinian Authority, women organizations started asking for gender rights, in parallel and remaining with the resistance and struggle against the occupation. In fact, this has been one of the central matters of discussion within the women’s movements: either was most important the fight against the patriarchy or the fight against the Zionist occupation and from one end to the other there’s a huge range of points of view and positions. It is no coincidence that another issue raised during the activist’s meeting was the importance of coordinating between the male’s agenda and the women’s. As mentioned above, one important challenge within the fold of the popular resistance movement is the alignment of the struggle with women’s right.

During the debate on the role of women in the resistance, the specific problems among the members of the group in different geographic areas were also revealed pointing out the various contexts and realities of the activists. After two days of intensive work and shared knowledge, emotions and experiences, the women decided to create a common frame a back up group, for the women of popular resistance, and to continue discussing in meetings to settle a common agenda, and common objectives in order to be stronger and more coordinated and organized in the struggle against patriarchate and occupation. The group has been holding meetings once a month. Each meeting is held in a different area, from the region or village of one of the participants. Each month one of the participants organize the meeting, that normally lasts all the day. By going to each region they know the specificities of each one, the concrete reality of each one of them. Knowing the concrete reality in which one is living strengthen the group and close ties between the activists.


1 http://www.commongroundnews.org/article.php?id=21088&lan=en&sp=1


2 Idem
    UE_Solo This publication is related to a project  funded by the European Union. However, the views expressed in it do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Commission.