February 24, 2020

Introduction:

During the last decade, Arab women broke into wide fields of work, and entered to occupy a lot of significant roles on the public and private organizational hierarchies. On a closer look at the reality of the presence of Arab women, especially in the public domains, even though women participation becomes clear to everyone, but it is still nominal. This promotion of this image is only for proving a democratic impression of Arab societies in its best form, as equal opportunities is one of democracy in a society, opposing all types of discrimination on the basis of sex or gender.

Civil Society Organizations are no exception, they are a reflection of the society in which this unclear situation is practiced or imposed, and the role of women in these organizations remains marginal, not close to circle of decision-making. Given a more accurate description of the scene, we find that women in our societies were not prepared from the beginning to take the lead in decision-making, as the negative perception of women in the male-dominated communities  besides the culture of marginalization since childhood and the way girls are brought up, resulted in generations of women who do not believe in themselves and do not have faith in their rights, or fail to struggle and get them.

Specific data of Palestine:

According to the recently released World Bank report, "Women, Business, and Law 2020", the annexed statistics indicate figures about the a low percentage of women's equality with men in Palestine, where women enjoy only 26.3% of their rights compared to men.

A look at Palestinian women's participation in public life, compared to civil public sector, women make up 43% of civil public sector employees compared to 57% for men (data for the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics 2019), and the gap represents positions of general manager and above, it reached 12% for women compared to 88% for men in the same category.

The participation of Palestinian women in public life is still limited compared to men, as 82% of judges are men compared to 18% for women, and 73% of attorneys practicing the profession are men compared to 27% for women, and 80% of members of the public prosecution are men compared to 20 % for women, and 25% of engineers registered with the Engineers Syndicate are women, compared to 75% of men. As for members of student councils in universities in the West Bank, female students reached 31% compared to 69% of male students.

Although the participation of women in the workforce has increased during previous years, it is still very low compared to men. The findings of the workforce survey issued by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics 2018 indicated that the female participation rate in the labor force in Palestine reached 21% by (18% in the West Bank and 26% in the Gaza Strip), and the participation rate among males is 72%, (74% in the West Bank and 68% in the Gaza Strip). As for the unemployment rate among females participating in the labor force, it reached 51% compared to 25% among males participating in the labor force.

The role of civil society in supporting the participation of Palestinian women:

Civil society can play an important role in supporting the participation and representation of women and all marginalized groups within its organizations. Here we list a set of recommendations of certain work practices that can empower women at workplaces, increase their real representation of women, and give closer access to equitable status in civil rights in business sectors:

1. Legal Empowerment: The legal awareness of women about their rights is an indispensable necessity. Inheritance, custody, maternity, alimony, employment, and other rights are almost absent on large numbers of women. Awareness sessions and media campaigns are necessary to inform women of their rights, how to obtain them, and even provide free legal advice to those who cannot afford to pay lawyers' fees.

2. Amending and developing the relevant laws: It is agreed-upon that the laws of personal status in our countries are outdated, such as raising the age of marriage, extending the period of motherhood, and reviewing custody age periods and other laws are no longer appropriate for today's world.

3. Capacity Building: in everything that is related to the business training programs at all possible sectors, for example the project management sector, including its writing, managing and implementing them, budgets' holding, proper planning, preparing economic feasibility studies, building accounting capabilities, besides any other capacity building courses in business, economics, agriculture, etc. sectors.

4. Supporting entrepreneurial small enterprises for marginalized groups: It is no longer easy in the current capitalism to succeed in entrepreneurial and independent projects that start from scratch, and this necessitates working on providing small capital and technical and financial consultations for women; it would be preferable if we were to move away from the stereotype that confines women to projects. Cooking, embroidery and beauty salons, and expanding work horizons to include areas that men have monopolized for years, such as programming and information technology, design and photography, e-marketing, data analysis ... etc. until new job markets are opened for women, and they exit from the usual stereotype of action.

5. Highlighting inspiring success stories: by promoting successful female models in various media, interviewing women, and how they manage projects and conduct work, which contributes to motivating others to start their own businesses, which ultimately drives towards greater involvement for women in the labor market, then allow them to be in the circles of decision-making.

 6. Change the stereotyped thoughts towards issues of women: such as the society’s view of divorced women, or towards women’s work in non-specific professions (that are often restricted to teaching and nursing), and the integration of women into a new type of business such as agriculture and industry, and even increasing their representation in community committees (reform committees on example), where the list of members of any community committee is almost empty of any women! Although a lot of the problems that these committees work to solve are related to women, their issues and their rights, how can the committee rule in favor of women and the latter is not represented!

7. Warnings against the risk of lagging societal practices: such as gender-based violence, early marriage, and child labor. Contributing to reducing their risk until they are completely disappearing, in gender-based violence, safe shelters for battered women should be established, and a 24-hour hotline to provide advice and assistance to women subjected to violence, and to provide sessions for psychological debriefing. With regard to early marriage, in addition to societal awareness and warning about the risks of these practices, and the extent of their impact on the family as a whole, we should push towards the enactment of laws and legislation that prohibit marriage under a certain age.

8. Providing women with safe spaces: This is done through contributing to the establishment of clubs or parks in which women can practice the different types of sports that are banned in the daily life course, even if it requires specialized coaching to take place according to a specific plan. The importance of this matter lies not in the high costs of specialized sports clubs that the vast majority of women cannot afford, but in the possibility of women practicing sport just like men, as the societal view still does not accept women going out to exercise alone, even if it is walking!

9. Providing women with food and health security: Many women suffer from food insecurity, and this can be overcome by providing food parcels and purchasing vouchers. As for health security, it could be done through the provision of medicines that contribute to family planning, personal hygiene parcels, and the periodic examination of breast and uterine cancer, for example. In addition to targeted awareness related to reproductive health, breastfeeding, birth control, etc.

10. Equal opportunity: This means that equality in educational attainment and professional experience should be in parallel by equality in jobs opportunities, as well as in results, and finally in salaries, so it is not fair for a woman to perform the same job that a man performs, and the latter's salary is to be greater than it, not for anything, except because she is a woman, or to be completely excluded from joining the labor market because she is a woman, and you may get maternity leave and other rights guaranteed by law in the beginning!

11. Advocacy: Perhaps this practice is one of the most important for Civil Society Organizations should work on, starting with enabling women to advocate for their rights and issues, and deepening the concept of persistence with them to ensure their capability to complete the path until the acquisition of rights, and ending with their full involvement in decision-making. So that women should know why they need to advocate on this or that issue, or raise awareness in this or that area, and ask themselves what laws and policies they wish to change or amend, and which have the most impact on their lives, so that women are able to communicate their true messages , and not repent as a matter of agenda for a local or international organizations, the woman herself is the savior of herself, and there is no external guardianship over her.

What we have mentioned above are just examples of what Civil Society Organizations can work on to increase the representation of women either in their organizations and in the sectors of business and public professions, and then in society as a whole, and we recall here a recent study conducted by Oxfam International, which revealed shocking numbers, perhaps the most important of which is that women every day, girls worldwide work nearly 12 billion hours without wages, in the field of caring for the elderly and children, or in the field of household work. The same organization estimates this free work at a material value of up to 10 trillion euros.