The Women’s Affairs Technical Committee (WATC) was established in 1992 in Ramallah as a coalition of women’s grassroots committees and organizations. It strives to empower women sociopolitically with the aim of achieving social justice in accordance with the Palestinian Declaration of Independence, the Palestinian Women’s Rights Bill, and international rights conventions. The WATC has twenty-three full-time and four part-time staff as well as volunteers. We work in Jerusalem, Gaza (where there is a branch), and the West Bank. Our general assembly includes sixty-five women, most of them members of Palestinian women’s grassroots committees. Every three years thirteen of these women are elected to the board of directors.
Our priorities are the following. We promote participation and partnership with affiliated organizations and wider communities as well as open, multidirectional communication for the purpose of eliminating all forms of discrimination against women and insisting on human rights for all groups. Toward these goals, the WATC publishes the first and only monthly newspaper focused on women’s issues and society in Palestine; has sponsored a weekly radio program with the same focus since 1996; and maintains partnership relations with regional and international women’s movements that share our political and social vision. We emphasize the importance of women in the national struggle (social, economic, and political) and our rich pluralistic heritage; we respect the particularity of the Palestinian people and work always to end the Israeli occupation. We promote creativity, dignity, and critical thinking in what we aim to preserve and what we aim to change in Palestinian values, certainly with respect to women; we renounce violence and intolerance, because they limit creativity and destroy critical thinking. We strongly value integrity in our own work and structure and in the work and structure of Palestinian civil and governmental institutions; integrity requires transparency and accountability. [End Page 126]
Our challenges are many. We remain under Israeli occupation and subject to military attack despite having gained UN observer-state status. This occupation limits the horizons of Palestinian society and the advancement of the women’s movement, as we are in a permanent situation of having to recover and build what is regularly destroyed. At the WATC, we struggle as we balance a women’s rights and an independence rights agenda. Palestinian women are marginalized politically, socially, culturally, and economically, with many governmental and nongovernmental organizations working to improve this situation. The WATC sees the most potential for concrete results if more women are mobilized and activated to achieve what they want. We insist on the importance of a women’s rights discourse and of women’s human rights. We worry about the impact of militant, conservative non-state actors in the region who with nonresponsive governments have produced a backlash against women’s rights and attacks against the lives and rights of many individuals and groups. We insist that women’s organizations should not be left alone to face such campaigns. One strategy is to reinforce a secular discourse, promote and protect pluralism, and apply the rule of law to all concerned. This work should be undertaken jointly and comprehensively with civil society organizations, political parties, and the Palestinian Authority. [End Page 127]
September 1, 2014