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Voices from Gaza: What does International Women's Day mean to you?

On International Women's Day, MEE asks Gazan journalists, house wives, artists, NGO leaders and others what the day means to them.
'There are Palestinian women, uncharged, in Israeli jails, and the world must demand that they be set free,' ex-prisoner Sabreen Abdelhafed told MEE (MEE/Mohammed Asad)

Fida Abuelata, 28, journalist

Fida Abuelata (MEE/Mohammed Asad)
"As a Palestinian journalist on International Women's Day, I feel we must raise our voices, on the rights of women to express themselves and the freedom to write on all contemporary issues including focusing on our situation under Israeli occupation and the injustices imposed upon us. The world has to observe, and be aware, in order to activate international legislation which is respectful of, and defends, women's freedoms and rights."

Maha Al-Masri, 28, nurse

Maha al-Masri (MEE/Mohammed Asad)
"From my professional perspective, I can proudly say, that women have worked both as doctors and nurses, in war and peace, working side by side in creative ways to improve the healing of all Palestinian patients, suffering from the wounds of Israeli attacks on Gaza and the umbrella of occupation. Nurses stand by doctors in operation rooms and all departments. They rely on each other."

Wissam Joudeh, 35, women's association advocate

Wissam Joudeh (MEE/Mohammed Asad)
"Today, we are taking to the streets to emphasise women’s rights. Palestinian women have always been steadfast and now we are demanding an end to the Israeli occupation and blockade."

Umm Tareq Abu-Shalouf, 49, housewife

Umm Tareq Abu-Shalouf (MEE/Mohammed Asad)
"Today, on Women's Day, as a mother of a prisoner in Israeli jails, we are ready to continue the struggle for equal and humane justice - but the world must lobby for the cause of Palestinian detainees and prisoners and not leave them as vulnerable prey to prison guards. My son, like others, faces a lot of violations against him, and it is time for the world to apply pressure - to allow us to visit our sons in Israeli jails - and due process, and not just blindly accept the pretext of 'Israeli security'."

Sabreen Abdelhafed, 37, ex-prisoner

Sabreen Abdelhafed (MEE/Mohammed Asad)
"I was arrested when I was 14, and had to spend seven months in Israeli jails away from my mother who I needed so much at the time. Other female prisoners took care of me and we helped each other stay healthy and continue our education, despite the preference of our jailer to deprive us of our rights to education, or handing out one tablet of Aspirin to cover all symptoms of sickness, both acute and chronic. Still today, there are Palestinian women, uncharged, in Israeli jails, and the world must demand that they be set free. They are still suffering now, as I did."

Salah Jadallah, 60, housewife

Salah Jadallah (MEE/Mohammed Asad)
"I have seven sons and my husband is paralysed - we have little dignity of life left. The Israeli military occupation is very creative in its methods of torture, persecution and committing many types of injustices against us, while the world is unaware, or just silently watches from outside. We have been through numerous wars and attacks, have been expelled and displaced from our homes, and hounded into refugee camps. I am originally from Beersheba, and as a Palestinian woman, I still dream of returning to our ancestral lands and homes. It is a big lie to talk about women’s rights because we, as Palestinian women, continue to suffer the imposition of the Israeli siege and the impact of perpetual wars."

Nuha Shaat, 33, embroidery craftswoman

Nuha Shaat (MEE/Mohammed Asad)
"I want to congratulate every Arab and Palestinian mother on International Women's Day. I want to congratulate them on their tireless struggle in the face of the siege, and I am here to call on the Western world to shed light on the suffering of Palestinian women struggling amid the most difficult social and economic conditions in order to feed their families. It is time for the world to stand up with courage and dignity to support Palestinian women. I hope that this siege ends and just becomes part of history. We are proud and creative and wish to sell our beautiful hand-crafted products to the world."

Wijdan Al-Bayoumi, 45, head of NGO

Wijdan Al-Bayoumi (MEE/Mohammed Asad)
"On this day, and every day, we emphasise the rights of women in accordance with all international laws which guarantee the same. Palestinian women also defend our homeland, alongside our families, during clashes with the Israeli expansion of occupation. We defend our homes and dignities and stand against employment discrimination. The world should not take the demands of women lightly, and not stand by, watching on TV, while we are continually oppressed. We, the Palestinian women, suffer so much from Israel's occupation and inhumane siege - so where are those who call for women’s rights today?"

Umm Mohammed Abu-Ryala, housewife 

Umm Mohammed Abu-Ryala (MEE/Mohammed Asad)
"As Palestinian women, it is a familiar part of our lives that we must take a final look at the bodies of our loved ones, killed while defending our freedoms. Today, we say goodbye to my nephew, who only went fishing to provide his family with food - and returned from the sea, dead, shot by Israeli gunfire. The world must remember, that for Palestinian women, this is our everyday reality."

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