Women in Palestine face serious challenges to gender equality, including discriminatory laws, lack of representation in leadership, and unequal cultural traditions. Violence against women is widespread and, according to a study by the Palestinian National Authority Ministry of Women’s Affairs (MoWA), 52% of married women have experienced physical violence, while 71% have experienced psychological violence.
Cultural norms and traditions are often the main justifications for this type of gender-based violence. Many women fear rape, domestic violence, economic uncertainty, and discrimination. Furthermore, there is a widespread social stigma in Palestine against reporting violence and abuses towards women and few ever seek out assistance. However, the Ma’an Network, an independent, non-profit media organization in Palestine, is aiming to change these patterns with a newly-funded project.
The Ma’an Network was established in 2005 and uses local and satellite television, radio, and online news channels to promote democracy and human rights. This year it is rolling out a new project to raise awareness and prevent violence against women and girls through a series of programs. One is a comedy series, another a courtroom-style show, each aired in Palestine and aimed at addressing issues ranging from marital rape to honour killings. The network has received a £730,000 grant from the UK government to air the programs for three years. They will be complemented by violence prevention workshops held in remote, more conservative areas of Palestine. The workshops will be include women, men, children, and local religious leaders.
As part of the project, the Ma’an Network has created a three-person gender unit to oversee program content, and it aims to reach more than 4 million people through the shows. The comedy program will feature stories of women and men switching traditional roles and will be broadcast in the evening during Ramadan, a time when there are typically large viewing audiences. The courtroom program will use actors to re-enact and resolve real life cases of violence against women before a professional judge.
The network will also run programs that feature inspirational Palestinian women. Through this work, the Ma’an Network aims to help people come together, find support, and learn a sense of community in a region that has endured war and violence. The project builds on previous, smaller-scale work such as short TV spots that aimed to educate about gender issues. It is the first of its kind in Palestine to create such long-running programs with supporting community workshops.
The Ma’an Network envisions a society where all citizens are empowered to defend their human rights and that of others. Through their multiple media outlets, they regularly address human rights issues and raise awareness by providing access to information. Their innovative new project aims to do this by promoting gender equality and empowering women. They recognize that there are strong, powerful women in local society and government, who can be role models for women in all over the region, and their goal is to build on this capacity to benefit Palestinian society as a whole.