Maysoun Saed Ibrahim Qawasmeh
Maysoun was born and raised in Jordan. She moved back to her homeland, the Occupied Palestinian Territory, when she got married about 20 years ago. As an activist promoting women rights and a member of prominent international women organizations, Maysoun became a leader in the Palestinian society initiating and promoting positive change in peacebuilding.
While navigating the delicate political divisions in her society, she keeps an independent outlook and is careful not to take any sides. She applies her dynamism, energy and bubbly character to building peace. She also lays a lot of importance on passing on the importance of civil peace to her children and the rest of her family.
Before rushing off to facilitate meetings in Hebron for a youth group, Maysoun took time to connect with us via Skype.
If there is to be one focus in Palestine, what would that be?
I believe we, as Palestinians, need to organize our priorities in order to end the occupation and be united towards our aim. In order to do that, we need to strengthen the culture of dialogue within Palestine. With the outbreak of internal fighting, it became very apparent to all peacebuilders that the focus must be on civil peace. ‘Internal peace in Palestine’ is how I usually describe what I do.
Tell us about Mustakbalna and why you joined?
Mustakbalna is the name of the programme in Palestine. It means ‘Our Future’ in Arabic. I joined Mustakbalna as a member of a working group looking at local priorities.
I then started to work on the programme because I realized the uniqueness of its approach and the importance of its role in the community. I believe we need a collective vision. As Palestinians, we need to work on this together, overcoming our divisions, while focusing our internal problems and our national priorities. We must stop constantly looking at what is going on around us and focus on ourselves. We need to act instead of react.
Your area of focus is on women and youth. Can you share with us why?
As women, we carry the heaviest burden of living in a conflict zone affected by occupation and violations by settlers. Our men are in constant danger, our children are not safe, it can be difficult to do the basics, and we spend our private lives mediating. When splits occur in families and amongst friends around political lines, the emotional impact is crippling. In a society where your political opinions dictate who you talk to, if your husband supports Fatah, your son supports Hamas, and your daughter is supporting the left, they cannot even sit at the same table and share a meal.
As for youth, they are our future. They are the positive change agents of both today and tomorrow. They are the ones who can create change in our society. I like to think of them as ‘multipliers’. They are a positive example to their friends but it doesn’t stop there. At home they are changing attitudes as well. Youth must be empowered to become future leaders and decision-makers.
So what needs to be done next?
We are all excited about the Arab Spring and the wind of change it is bringing. We are also excited about the reconciliation agreement between Fatah and Hamas. But a word of warning; people are often too optimistic and have expectations that cannot possibly be met.
Reconciliation now needs to be implemented on the ground. It will take patience to work this through and achieve unity. Firstly, we need to educate society and especially young people about their value and role as citizens. Only then can we build unity from within and begin to move forward, as we work to achieve a collective and consensual vision for Palestine by Palestinians.
What’s your hope for the future?
Peace is always built on a foundation of justice. This is not exclusive to Palestine, but applies to the whole world. I hope the future generation will live in peace, have full rights and will not live under occupation.