Striking out against gender-based violence in Gaza


Women in the Occupied Palestinian Territory face high levels of violence. Nearly a quarter of ever-married women report that they had been exposed to physical abuse, 62% to psychological violence, and 10% to sexual violence.

In Gaza, the pressures of the Israeli blockade and occupation exacerbate tensions in a society in which women often suffer acutely under traditions that can discriminate against them.

It is here that the MDG-F has helped open the first integrated women’s shelter and facility to address gender-based violence, the Hayat Center for the protection and empowerment of women and families.

Breaking ground for Palestinian women

Launched in December 2010 by UN Women, the UNDP and the Center for Women’s Legal Research and Consultancy (CWLRC), the project aims to reduce gender-based violence by promoting nonviolent family relations, providing counseling, rehabilitation and legal services to victims of violence and encouraging gender-sensitivity in Palestinian culture.

The center is considered the first of its kind to address the phenomenon of gender-based violence with a human rights approach and an integrated framework. Its goal is to protect and empower women and girls who are victims and survivors of violence, and help them re-integrate into society.

The Hayat Center is part of the MDG-F’s efforts to empower women in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and to assist the Palestinian government in achieving the Millennium Development Goals of reducing poverty and promoting gender equality. The MDG-F’s work is focused on reducing inequalities around the world, and particularly targets the most marginalized populations and those least able to advocate for themselves.

Palestinian women and girls suffer from limited access to justice. According to a UN Gender Needs Assessment, while 37% of women in Gaza perceive domestic violence as a main security and safety problem for women and girls, a mere 2% said they would go to the police for protection and help. One of the services offered by the Hayat Center is defense in court for women who seek legal aid in domestic cases and cases related to violence against women. 

The Center offers numerous other services: the family forum provides a safe visitation space for children of separated parents, sparing all family members the potential trauma of visitation at police stations.  Another section at the Center provides social and psychological counseling as well as daytime rehabilitation services for abused women.

The Center has also recently begun operating a shelter for women and children fleeing violence at home.

Since its establishment, the Hayat Center has served about 50 women with legal and social services or on-going counseling to deal with marital or parenting issues.

Towards equality for Palestinian women

The MDG-F joint programme, Gender Equality - Social, Political and Economic in the OPT, is a collaboration between UNDP, UN Women, UNFPA, UNESCO, UNRWA, and ILO. It assisted in the production of the first ever Violence Against Women (VAW) Strategy for the Palestinian Territory, which was endorsed by the Palestinian Cabinet and is being included in education and training curricula.

The programme also helped establish inter-ministerial coordination mechanisms to strengthen gender policies across first line ministries (health, education, justice and labor),  improved the capacity of the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) for producing gender statistics, including a baseline of gender based violence and progress toward MDGs, and helped develop a media advocacy strategy and guidelines for police family protection units.




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