Wednesday, April 12, 2006
A Quiet Haven
Up to eight women, along with children, can stay in the shelter. Active contact is maintained with the referrer and contact is continued with the women on their departure. The first woman, and her five children, were received in Feb. '06.
Suad, from WCLAC, spoke about the difficulties of opening the shelter, " it needed lots of work and lots of belief". As well as the daily obstacles of living under Occupation, they encountered problems with attitudes towards women, and family law coming under the auspices of sharia law.
WCLAC provide a range of services to women who are victims or potential victims of violence, such as counseling, legal aid and legal representation. The Intifada has affected the men and women of Palestine in different ways. For the men their status in this patriarchal society is continually undermined - economically, socially and politically- and they face daily humiliation, harassment and violence at the hands of the Israeli army. For women as well as the Occupation, they face an increase in violence in the home.
Whilst the increase in domestic violence is directly related to the external situation of the Intifada, Suad explained how women are more likely to seek help only once there is a calmer external situation. Not only because some movement restrictions are eased , but also to speak about "domestic problems" in the face of the Intifada is seen as unpatriotic or a betrayal.
Another important part of WCLACs' work is capacity building with grassroots womens organisations. "Women for Life", a group IWPS has worked closely with here in Salfeet district, have benefited in a variety of ways from the support and encouragement of WCLAC. Since '04 they have received weekly training for a social worker and lawyer, so that Women For Life will be able to respond more skillfully to women who are victims of violence.
Even in countries not under Occupation to actualise a vision for a womens refuge takes energy, dedication and determination. To bring about this under the conditions of Occupation and within the context of a conservative, patriarchal society is an incredible achievement.