Statement by Mrs. Somaia Barghouti, Counsellor, Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine to the U.N., before the Third Committee, Agenda item 107: Advancement of Women, 50th Session (1995):
My delegation would like to address item 107, "Advancement of Women", which deals with one of the most important issues on our agenda. I might add that the advancement of women is one of the basic elements required in the dynamics of any society towards prosperity, development and the enhancement of its social and economic status.
Since the convening of the First World Conference on Women, which was held in Mexico in 1975, the world has witnessed considerable progress in the advancement of women. There has been more awareness of women's issues and more integration of women in the development of their societies. Yet difficulties, many new, and problems have been persistent, including the rise of various dramatic civil, ethnic and armed conflicts, wars, new forms of racism and racial discrimination, foreign occupation and alien domination, extreme poverty, high rate of illiteracy, rise of the numbers of refugees and displaced women.
The Nairobi Forward-Looking Strategies (FLS) formulated the basis for the advancement of women and laid the foundations for achieving its objectives: equality, development and peace. The Fourth World Conference on Women, held in Beijing in September of this year, adopted a realistic platform of action and set concrete mechanisms to implement the goals and objectives of the FLS. The convening of this conference presented a great opportunity for women from all over the world to exchange their views on issues that they share or upon which they differ, in a spirit of solidarity and cooperation with the aim to improve the status of women worldwide. In this regard, my delegation once again expresses deep appreciation and thanks to the people and Government of China for hosting the conference and contributing to its success.
What is required from the international community to meet the new challenges facing women today is the sincere will and the mobilization of new and adequate resources to speed up the realization of the advancement of women in all fields and the protection of their rights. The improvement in the fields of women's education, health and economic status are important factors for women's equality and their effective participation in the social, economic, political and cultural development of any society. Moreover, women's participation in policies and decision-making is a major factor towards achieving progress in the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform of Action.
Examining the situation of Palestinian women, it is clear that the Middle East peace process has produced positive developments concerning the condition of the Palestinian people, including women and children. However, the impact of the Israeli occupation continues to affect all aspects of daily life of the Palestinian people. The harsh economic conditions, the building and expansion of Israeli settlements, isolation and closure of areas of the occupied territory, including Jerusalem, land and water confiscation, issues that still have detrimental effects on the condition of Palestinian women and children and pose real obstacles to their advancement. Furthermore, and as the result of the long years of occupation, there has been a rising number of refugees and displaced persons, break-up of families, deterioration of health conditions, poor education, increase in unemployment and depletion of the environment.
All of these difficulties, problems and obstacles have not prevented Palestinian women from continuous pursuit of initiatives and proposed national programs of action geared towards their advancement and their full participation in building their society. The Palestinian Declaration of Independence of 1988 clearly calls for the equality of Palestinian women. It states, "Governance will be based on principles of social justice, equality and non-discrimination in public rights of men or women, on grounds of race, religion, color and sex under the aegis of the constitution, which ensures rule and law and independent judiciary".
The struggle of Palestinian women took on a multi-faceted dimension. In the early years of the occupation until the late 1980s, the efforts of Palestinian women were focused on involvement in national and political issues. They believed that their struggle on national issues would give them better opportunities to advance their social and economic status. However, they realized that this involvement is not enough. During the late 1980s and early 90s, Palestinian women began, in addition to their previous involvement, to focus more on social and human rights issues.
Today, among the priorities of the Palestinian women, is to adopt a declaration of principles on the rights of women and to exert all efforts to translate its stipulations in the constitution, laws and legislation drawn up by the Palestinian National Authority. Furthermore, they seek to establish a mechanism concerned with following up women's issues and affairs, linked to the highest decision-making position in the Authority, with the necessary mandate, financial resources, action and follow-up among the various institutions of the Authority and the grassroots organizations. This is to be done in order to promote the equitable integration of women in the process of the development of Palestinian society. Their involvement in all aspects of the upcoming elections, including voting and candidature will contribute in a more concrete way to the achievement of their objectives.
My delegation believes that the inclusion of the concerns of women living under foreign occupation in the Beijing Platform of Action expresses the international community's continuous support of Palestinian women in their struggle for independence and freedom. The implementation of the Platform of Action will indeed contribute to the alleviation of the suffering of Palestinian women and will constitute a step forward towards their equality, prosperity and a peaceful life.
A serious follow-up to the Fourth World Conference on Women and the full implementation of the Declaration and the Platform of Action will also contribute to real empowerment and advancement of women worldwide. This requires that all states, United Nations bodies and other relevant international organizations and the NGOs take effective actions and measures to achieve such a goal.