New York, July 30, 2012—Recognizing women’s role in peacemaking, the Outreach and Education Program, led by OneVoice Europe’s Sharon Alsoodani, plans to connect UK women's empowerment groups with women in remote Palestinian community.
Since visiting the Women’s Association of Qalqilya early this summer, where several of OneVoice’s top women youth activists volunteer, Alsoodani has been exploring establishing a relationship for them with Lotus Life, a London-based young women’s empowerment group, to share with each other their efforts and experiences.
“Witnessing the desire among the women of Qalqilya in shaping their community and political landscape, I’ve returned to London with renewed motivation to amplify their work,” said Alsoodani. “I’ll be facilitating cross-border and cross-cultural communication that will make the global impact of our voices stronger.”
The Women’s Association of Qalqilya, founded in 2010 and now 55 members-strong, empowers women of all ages in the city to assume a greater role in civil and political life. They’ve been focusing on creative means of combating the dramatic effects of Israel’s controversial separation barrier, which almost completely encircles the city and results in political disenfranchisement as well as severe poverty.
“Our connections with the outside world have not been good in Qalqilya,” one middle-aged woman told Alsoodani during her visit. “But we are starting to build relationships, which will enhance the progress and development of our town.”
At a town hall meeting that OneVoice held late last year in Qalqilya’s city hall, over 100 participants discussed the best way to invigorate the city’s stalled economy. Meanwhile, at their latest meeting, Women’s Association members and OV youth activists raised the issue of municipal politics and how to best use the upcoming elections to advance social causes.
“We have to stop looking always toward the past,” said Azil Nazzal, a top OneVoice Palestine youth activists and Women's Association volunteer, during her presentation at the meeting. “We have to start planning what we want for the future and make it happen.”
And it is in that message — recognizing the pain of the past while refusing to let it dictate the future — that OneVoice Palestine and the Women’s Association of Qalqilya have become natural allies in the effort to mobilize Palestinians across the West Bank.
Meanwhile, back in London, members of Lotus Life are receptive to learning firsthand from them about the actions they're taking on the ground to end the occupation and improve the quality of life for Palestinians.
For starters, Alsoodani plans to run a Skype session, connecting the two groups and giving the Women's Association of Qalqilya their sought after link to the outside world. Whatever the forum it takes — whether concerned with political, social or economic issues — the end result of such initiatives is greater ownership for the embattled residents of Qalqilya over their futures.