In recent years, there is growing awareness about the unique, detrimental impact armed conflict has on women. The international community has passed a number of significant resolutions on women’s involvement in conflict resolution and peace building (for instance, United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325).
For Gaza’s women, the hardships suffered as a result of conflict are a daily reality. Yet, when they try to turn the spotlight on their plight, make their voices heard and advance women’s status in Gaza, severe restrictions on travel stand in their way.
A few months ago, a delegation of six women from various civil society organizations in Gaza, all of them involved in advancing women’s issues and human rights, was invited to participate in a series of meetings organized by the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN), an umbrella group which brings together more than 80 human rights organizations. The women would have traveled to Belgium to meet with top UN and European Union officials in order to raise awareness of how the armed conflict has affected their lives.
These kinds of meetings are an important step towards achieving the goals set by the international community, and shared by Israel, to involve women in political debates and conflict resolution, to formulate policy that acknowledges the unique, harmful effect of armed conflict on women and offers ways of dealing with it, and to safeguard the role of women in contributing to their societies.
However, in order to participate in these meetings and to promote these worthy causes, delegation members first had to get permission to leave Gaza. The women requested to participate in a unique conference on humanitarian issues, a request that meets the extremely narrow criteria for exiting the Gaza Strip. They submitted the application well in advance and despite the fact that they had arranged several high-level meetings, including with the Belgian Foreign Ministry, the request was denied.
The refusal of the request prevented the delegation from taking part in discussions which directly impact their lives could have helped them in their work improving the situation of women and girls in their society. In that way, the refusal didn’t just impact them, but rather their society as a whole.