UN Women, with support of the Government of Japan, opened today the first international seminar on “Gender-Based Violence in the humanitarian context of the Gaza Strip.
For the first time in Gaza, more than 250 national and international representatives from civil society, humanitarian, development organisations and donors are convening for 2 days to discuss prevention and response to gender-based violence (GBV) in the Gaza Strip.
In the presence of Dr. Haifa Al Agha, Minister of Women’s Affairs, Dr. Dubravka Šimonovic, Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, and Mr. Hiroyuki Kajita, First Secretary/ Head of Economic Cooperation – Representative Office of Japan to the Palestinian Authority, the seminar opened with a strong reminder of the responsibility of all actors towards protecting the life and rights of Palestinian women and girls and the need to speed-up progress.
“The Seminar comes at a right time” said Dr. Haifa Al Agha in its opening remarks, “as we must find practical solutions to address gender-based violence and reduce the suffering of victims. Gender-based violence is strongly shaking the fabric of the Gazan society and is urgent to combat and eradicate it.”
Precarious living conditions resulting from 9 years of blockade, recurring violent escalation of conflict, and large scale destruction and displacement, have exacerbated pre-existing vulnerabilities, shaken social fabric and increased tensions leading to higher incidence of gender-based violence.
Participants stressed the significant efforts of the international humanitarian actors and Gazan civil society in the past two years in scaling up their interventions and response to GBV, but also the huge amount of needs and remaining challenges that continue to keep women silent.
“Progress has been made but much more needs to be done” stressed Dr. Sabine Machl at the opening, “and we cannot shy away from our collective responsibility to protect women and girls, whatever the difficulty of the context. There is a urgent need to scale up our efforts to establish more coordinated and integrated GBV service provision.”
Recent initiatives to assess the scope and extent of gender-based violence (GBV) needs and response in Gaza, such as UNFPA Gender-Based Violence mapping, monitoring existing services, or the up-coming UN Women research on the response of services to GBV in Gaza are all concrete steps towards the establishment of quality, coordinated and integrated services and sustaining support and response.
Stronger focus on GBV issues in humanitarian context, internationally and in Gaza, and the development of specific mechanisms and guidelines to tackle and integrated gender violence in emergencies response, provide strong foundation to improve response and coordination on GBV in Gaza. Recognising the urgency of strengthening the GBV response, participants will convene in the second day to identify concrete recommendations to enhance GBV response in Gaza.