Researchers, officials, and civil society organizations activists called the government to involve women and youth in the decision-making process of developing plans, programs, and policies for fighting the COVID-19 pandemic in Palestine.
This came during a workshop organized by the Palestinian Network of NGOs (PNGO) entitled, “The Situation of Women and Youth in Light Of COVID-19 Crisis” where they called to develop plans and projects to empower women and youth towards a more decent life. The workshop was implanted in partnership with Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Foundation.
Andalib Odwan, Community Media Center director, and Rami Mohsen, a Gazan lawyer, presented two papers on the aftermaths of the pandemic on both women and young people with a handful of tasteful recommendations.
This pandemic increased poverty and unemployment numbers which reflected badly on women and women-headed households, Odwan pointed in her paper. The increase in gender-based violence as well as the suffering of women in homes and quarantine centers were also among the impacts of the ongoing crisis.
Women were excluded from the decision-making tables, she explained, and in the contribution of the development of policies and plans to address the pandemic.
Odwan demanded the de facto authorities in the Gaza Strip to take into account developing their policies, procedures, and mechanisms used while dealing with the pandemic situation to lessen the suffering of women by improving quarantine centers in a manner that preserves their dignity and privacy. This would provide the necessary needs and health care as well, especially for sick women.
Women, according to Odwan, must be involved in the policy development and decision-making processes to address the pandemic. They must join the working committees, and emergency committees to benefit from their extensive experience in managing crises as they are constantly living in ones.
Furthermore, Odwan stressed the need to intensify the coordination among private sector institutions to integrate the services that can be provided to women, distribute roles and regions between them to ensure quality and uniqueness.
This is also an attempt to cover financial needs, provide psychological support, and health care. Within this process, information based on phone services to receive complaints would be distributed, awareness-raising campaigns for women would be made, support, and guidance would bs provided to protect women from violence and Coronavirus.
In turn, Mohsen expressed the need for the government to adopt policies and plans that would contribute to overcoming the challenges created by the pandemic and faced by youth. A valid strategy, as Mohsen states, is to involve them in finding and implementing solutions to these problems and challenges.
Mohsen pointed to the impact of the pandemic on young people, especially in light of the high rates of anxiety, stress, and depression, the growing rates of violence, family violence and crime, the widening poverty gap, destitution and unemployment, the halt of face-to-face education, the increase of negative adjustment rates and their exclusion from decision-making positions.
Moreover, he pointed to the efforts and contributions made by young people to face the current pandemic, including the formation of emergency committees, providing relief and assistance to the affected with COVID-19, and implementing awareness campaigns.
There must be more beneficial partnerships between youth, civil society organizations, and government institutions, Mohsen said, that develop the youth agenda since they are nonexistent so far. These plans would allow the effective engagement of young people in addressing the consequences of the virus on them and on society.
In the same context, Mohsen called for the involvement of youth within the priorities of civil society organizations work through a participatory and transparent process with adequate resources and rapid initiative restoration. Making creative social solidarity models and putting affected youth and youth on the top of the priorities’ list will be carried-out especially with civil society organizations’ diverse historical context and experience in dealing with such cases.
Besides, Mohsen urged civil society organizations to work closely with donors to increase their interest in financially sponsoring young people, and to adopt a pattern of support for their economic projects, especially those that were affected by the pandemic, including creating job opportunities, and re-consideration of influence campaigns to pressure government agencies, to ensure their response to youth plans and issues, whether during the pandemic or any future emergency.
Investing in the technological world and the techniques of remote communication is a must, Mohsen continued, to raise the readiness of responding to any emergency, especially after the WHO statement of not finding an end to the Coronavirus as it needs to disappear from the world first.
It is necessary to draw inspiration from the successful international experiences in this regard, he considered, including, the launch of the Palestinian Youth Hackathon similar to the Hackathon of the Arab Youth Center; as it is the largest joint platform for youth solutions, Mohsen described, amid to put forward youth ideas and share them on mechanisms to support development, confront challenges and crises, and enhance youth participation in finding solutions to issues that concern the Arab people.
Amjad Al-Shawa, PNGO director, opened the workshop by referring to the recent suicide cases among youths calling for finding a proper solution for them.
Al-Shawa stressed the need to provide opportunities for the participation of young people in public and political life, and to end the trinity of Palestinian tragedies represented in the political division, the Israeli occupation and the imposed blockade of the Gaza Strip.
The Israeli occupation affects various aspects of Palestinian life, he said, starting with the right to self-determination, the right to health, the right to movement, and others. While the blockade has negatively affected economic, living, and social conditions, women, and youth are the ones paying the most; therefore, officials must listen to the unheard voices of women and youth, without trying to make their situation look less deteriorated.
In his part, Dr. Osama Antar, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Gaza programs director, said that there are nine research papers conducted in partnership with PNGO that mention the effects and repercussions of the Corona pandemic on various sectors.
Antar also referred to the suffocating crises that women and youth experiencing in the Gaza Strip, especially during the pandemic, calling on various bodies to live up to their duties towards them.