Strengthening the role of young women as advocates of peace and security in Palestine through creativity and art

The political sphere in Palestine is male dominated, with young women in particular excluded from political and security decision-making. Significantly, existing social norms, growing conservative attitudes, prevailing gender stereotypes and socio-economic hardship hinder women’s participation at positions of influence. As a result, young women are often not engaged or involved in traditional power structures, and ultimately, have limited knowledge of their civic and political rights, including the capacity to express their political and social views.

To help shift this reality, Interpeace’s Palestine programme (Mustakbalna) has since its creation engaged diverse actors across the political spectrum and key sectoral groups within the Palestinian society, including women and youth, as change agents to promote constructive dialogue, enhance civil peace and greater stability within the Palestinian community.

In 2018, Mustakbalna partnered with The Freedom Theatre to strengthen the role of young women as advocates of peace and security in Palestine through creativity and art. Combining technical capacity building on UNSCR 1325, human rights, and gender with training on the use of innovative advocacy tools such as participatory photography, videography and theatre, young women from six different areas in the West Bank were empowered to act with influence, stand up for their rights and lead positive change in their communities.

Empowering women through art   

In 2000, the Security Council passed UNSCR 1325 on Women, Peace and Security. This resolution was a milestone because it acknowledged the disproportionate and unique impact of armed conflict on women and girls, as well as the important role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts, peace negotiations, humanitarian response and peacebuilding. More than just victims of conflict, the resolution recognized women as actors of change and as peacebuilders, as well as acknowledged the importance of including women in all stages of conflict prevention and peace negotiations. However, in conflict-affected countries, women – and young women in particular – often do not possess technical knowledge of UNSCR 1325 and generally lack the space, confidence and advocacy skills to voice their concerns and aspirations to decision-makers.

Thinking of ways to address the particular challenge faced by young women, the Mustakbalna programme in partnership with The Freedom Theatre delivered a series of capacity building workshops, theatre and drama workshops, and participatory photography/videography sessions, to enable young women in target areas to improve their confidence, advocacy skills and technical knowledge of UNSCR 1325. These comprehensive training efforts helped 120 young women between the ages of 15-25 to find their “own voice” using creativity and art. Throughout the sessions, young women improved their ability to have oftentimes difficult conversations about security concerns, covering issues such as domestic violence, sexual harassment and abuse with their peers, project staff, and key stakeholders, while at the same time linking these concerns to broader reflections about UNSCR 1325 and to what extent it can be used as an advocacy tool. These improvements were confirmed by participants’ parents, and other project stakeholders, including women leaders, who were impressed by the level of knowledge and expertise demonstrated by young women such as displaying greater confidence and courage, greater awareness of their rights as women and as Palestinians, and greater clarity in their communication and self-expression. As a result, young women were able to bring forth their concerns and aspirations through various means and with various audiences.

The photography and videography workshops trained young women in the use of cameras and mobile phones to document issues around them and examine how these tools can be used as an advocacy instrument. Young women produced photographs and short films portraying their everyday realities, concerns and challenges regarding security, sexual harassment, societal pressure, abuse, and discrimination (gender and age) but also their aspirations and role in society. Meanwhile, the theatre and drama workshops covered not only theory and practice, but also interactive exercises such as use of body language and confidence-building. As a conclusion to the workshops, the works produced by young women, such as theatre sketches, photographs and short films, were presented in local communities to foster discussion around the role and concerns of young women.

Additionally, as part of the objective to raise broader awareness about issues concerning women in the Palestinian society, Interpeace’s partner, The Freedom Theater led the production of a play “Us Too – Women of Palestine”. The play highlighted powerful personal stories of harassment, struggle for equality, and women’s dreams of determining their own future, which toured in different locations in the West Bank.

In October 2018, a National Gathering was organized to conclude the training elements of the project. For the first time, the young women working groups were brought together from across the West Bank: Jenin City, Ya’bad, Nablus, Tulkarem, Tubas, and Hebron to help build stronger relationships, networks and communication channels with each other and with local organizations.

Connecting young women with decision-makers

As an integral part of the project, communication channels were created between young women and local decision-makers through introductory meetings to provide women with concrete opportunities to practice advocacy and accountability. These meetings were organized in all target areas, where participants discussed the implementation of UNSCR 1325 and the role and particular security concerns of young women. Over 120 participants attended these meetings including young women, representatives of local municipalities, Governorate Offices, political parties, women’s and human rights organizations, legal institutions, and informal community leaders.

Furthermore, through the advocacy engagements facilitated by the programme, a meeting between young women and representatives of the National Coalition for the Implementation of UNSCR 1325 in Palestine was organized. The discussion covered issues such as gender-based violence and discrimination against women including honor killings, violence against women by the Israeli occupation, raising awareness among men of women’s rights, gender, and UNSCR 1325, as well as the challenge of forming a unified front among women on the issue of women’s rights in Palestine.

Both decision-makers and women leaders acknowledged the importance and necessity of listening to these strong – but often marginalized – voices and recognized the place and potential of young women as “future leaders” of the Palestinian society.

Ensuring young women’s access to community structures at a local level is key to enabling them to later participate in peace and security processes at the national level. Fostering greater awareness of young women’s rights and opportunities can enable them to use such frameworks, and UNSCR 1325 specifically, as tools to advocate for a greater role for themselves.

The implementation of the Interpeace and Freedom Theatre project “Advocates for peace and security” was made possible with the generous support of the Folke Bernadotte Academy (FBA).

Photo credit: The Freedom Theatre

Palestinian Youth Challenges and Aspirations

This report was commissioned by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Peacebuilding Support Office (PBSO) with funds from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida). The report was developed as a contribution to the Progress Study on Youth, Peace and Security mandated by Security Council Resolution 2250. The research and consultations for this report followed the key research questions and methodology developed for the Progress Study.

The content of this report does not necessarily represent the views of the United Nations.

Palestine: A grassroots petition calls for reconciliation

In an innovative effort to end the internal division that is devastating Palestinian society, a mass petition calling for reconciliation was delivered to Fatah and Hamas leadership in April. The petition was launched by ex-detainee and youth groups called 'Palestine Above All,' with the support of Mustakbalna, Interpeace's programme in Palestine. 9,195 signatures were collected from all sectors of Palestinian society, conveying the people's demand for an urgent implementation of national reconciliation under the slogan: 'Occupation and division are two sides of the same coin.'

A need for trust and unity

Since the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections, tensions steadily built up between the two major political forces, Fatah and Hamas, which have been unable to uphold a unity government. The internal division has caused serious a deterioration of the political, social, economic and cultural situation in Palestine. The Palestinian people are the main victims of this political deadlock and the broad range of signatories to the petition as well as the large and enthusiastic coverage of its delivery in the local media reflect the strong will among the population to achieve unity and to call on political leadership for an urgent implementation of a national reconciliation.

Emerging grassroots activism

Mustakbalna, which means 'Our Future' in Arabic, has been working to build trust and enable dialogue between the dominant political parties Fatah and Hamas. Mustakbalna's advocacy work is carried out through working groups of key-actors of Palestinian society, namely ex-detainees and youth. The petition comes as a welcome sign of the emergence of grassroots activism in favour of reconciliation among the political leadership.

A broad support

Among the 9,195 signatures which were delivered simultaneously to the Presidency Office in the West Bank and to the Prime Minister's Office in Gaza are those of Members of Parliament, representatives of all political parties and of civil society, as well as youth, ex-detainees and various activists from all Palestinian governorates, both in Gaza and the West Bank along with support from the diaspora. Mustakbalna considers this a major step towards actions that are driven by the people in attempt to change the current split into reconciliation and unity.

Strengthening the culture of dialogue

Addressing political demands to the authorities in the form of a petition is indeed an innovative procedure in the Palestinian context. In view of Mustakbalna's long-term objectives, it is a landmark event on the path to strengthening the culture of dialogue within Palestine and developing a common vision for the future. That is why youth and ex-detainees constitute particularly important groups, not just because they make up a sizable portion of the population, but because they are the positive agents of change – today and tomorrow.

Ex-detainees are a key pressure group that transcends political affiliation and is highly respected in Palestinian society. It is also very encouraging to see young people contribute to carrying through initiatives such as this petition, as they are potential future leaders and decision-makers.


Palestine: A photo gallery to promote tolerance

As part of the activities organized by Interpeace and its local teams around the world for Peace Day, the Mustakbalna team, Interpeace’s partner in Palestine, set up a temporary photo exhibition in Gaza. Forty photographs taken by Palestinian photographers and journalists were presented under the name ‘Palestine Through Your Eyes’ to promote civic peace and call for reconciliation between the two main political parties, Fatah and Hamas.

Stimulating reflection and dialogue

Visitors of all ages, backgrounds and political convictions came to see the exhibition. The use of art to convey a message of peace was favourably received and generated dynamic discussions. “The gallery provided a variety of pictures that call for tolerance and unity. I hope that by working hand in hand we can end the division,” said a university student.

As part of the exhibition, presentations and explanations of the pictures were provided to the visitors. A young poet also recited a poem calling for optimism and unity. “The idea of the gallery is great and special,” one of the photographers commented; “It inspires a human perspective to use art for promoting tolerance, and serves as a unifying call.”

A successful show

Thanks to the organizers’ dedication, the exhibition attracted nearly a hundred visitors and was extended on the following day due to such high demand. The event also received extensive coverage from the local media.

L' Mustakbalna programme (which means ‘Our Future’ in Arabic) works in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and is contributing to the development of a sustainable and comprehensive solution for the ongoing conflict in the Middle East by helping Palestinians resolve their internal differences and work towards unity.

Peace Day in Palestine: A call for unity

When Interpeace partner Mustakbalna introduced the initiative to celebrate peace, excitement among Mustakbalna's different working groups grew to promote concepts of tolerance and acceptance of plurality.

Who do we make peace with?

The Mustakbalna programme organized two events in observance of Peace Day in two different regions, Hebron (Southern West Bank) and Jenin (Northern West Bank). This was a success in itself as it was the first time that the governorate of Hebron hosted an event to celebrate the day.

The event in Hebron was organized as a large workshop that hosted prominent figures representing political parties, municipalities, clan leaders, and civil society. Totaling around 80 people, the workshop also included working groups of ex-detainees, youth, and women. The workshop, entitled: "Who Do We Make Peace With?" focused on finding solutions to ending internal divisions between the two major political parties, Fatah and Hamas, and called for reconciliation. The workshop focused on humanitarian issues as well, denouncing 'honor-killings' of women, and emphasizing the role of youth in promoting tolerance and civic peace.

Peace goes beyond a lack of violence

The event in Jenin included 40 participants from diverse sectors of civil society and political parties, along with Mustakbalna working groups. The event was in the form of a round table discussion about civil peace, as well as an exhibition of caricature art by a young Palestinian artist.

The roundtable discussion focused on recent political and societal changes that have impacted the rule of law and civil peace in the area. The talks also focused on the need for increased efforts towards implementing reconciliation as the peace process remains relatively stagnant. The group came to an understanding that peace was not only about a lack of physical violence, but also about teaching peace and tolerance in schools, mosques, homes, and in the street.

Peace Day as an opportunity for expression

These peace day events in Hebron and Jenin attracted important media coverage due to the relevance of the subjects discussed and the range of participants in attendance. For many Palestinians, Peace Day was an opportunity to express their hopes and aspirations of achieving political stability and societal justice.

Following the Peace Day events, the Mustakbalna groups in both regions jointly prepared a letter highlighting civil peace and reconciliation. So far, the letter has been received by the Governor of Jenin, the Ministry of Culture, several NGOs, as well as a Women's Union in the region. In the future, the groups will continue to distribute the letter with the goal of promoting civil peace.



Depuis 2004, Mustakbalna, le programme d'Interpeace en Palestine, s'efforce de faciliter la réalisation d'une convergence sur une vision commune de l'État de Palestine qui soit représentative du peuple palestinien et gagne le soutien de ses dirigeants. Le programme fonctionne actuellement en Cisjordanie, dans la bande de Gaza et prévoit de faire participer la diaspora palestinienne.

Mustakbalna, qui signifie « notre avenir » en arabe, a identifié des partenaires stratégiques influents, respectés et susceptibles de créer un impact plus important. Le groupe de travail de Mustakbalna comprend : d'anciens détenus, des jeunes, des femmes, des dirigeants communautaires, des membres du Parlement (PLC), des politiciens de tous les partis politiques, des intellectuels, la société civile et d'autres groupes opérant au niveau local. Mustakbalna a gagné la confiance et la crédibilité parmi les principales parties prenantes et a accès à tous les partis politiques, des milieux populaires à la haute direction.

Le programme fonctionne dans un environnement politique turbulent avec des flambées récurrentes de violence et des défis présents sur le terrain, en raison à la fois du conflit israélo-palestinien et de la division politique interne. Mustakbalna adopte donc une structure flexible pour répondre à l'impact de l'évolution de la situation politique sur le terrain, tout en restant dévoué à son objectif global.

Mustakbalna a relié la base aux niveaux de direction dans le but de combler le fossé démocratique qui se creuse dans le contexte palestinien. Le programme vise à responsabiliser les agents du changement. Mustakbalna encourage les personnes avec lesquelles il travaille à agir et à tendre la main à ceux qui sont insatisfaits des divisions politiques internes et désireux d'exercer une pression populaire sur les dirigeants, en utilisant divers outils de pression et de défense.

Le programme est bien placé et a gagné en crédibilité parmi les principales parties prenantes à travers les divisions sectorielles et géographiques pour répondre aux préoccupations nationales cruciales. L'un des principaux atouts de Mustakbalna est son accès à l’élite politique grâce à son engagement avec d’anciens détenus éminents et respectés. Celles-ci peuvent attirer à la fois l'attention des dirigeants palestiniens et maintenir le respect de la population.

À l'avenir, Mustakbalna travaillera pour faciliter le développement d'un consensus entre les principales parties prenantes concernant les priorités nationales palestiniennes et le besoin crucial d'une stratégie de libération nationale.