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A Reflection on 6 months of War

My name is Marie Clarke and I'm the Chief Program Officer at Women for Women International.

I’ve just returned from two weeks in Palestine, where my colleague Amani Mustafa who is the Country Director of WfWI Palestine and I met with many of our partners in the West Bank and Israel. As we approach the 6-month mark of this horrific war, we are supporting these partners across the region to help meet the urgent needs of women and their families.

The main thing that I'm taking away from these two weeks is that there is a common desire for the fighting to end. 

Everyone I spoke with is heartbroken by what they see playing out in Gaza. In fact, even when Palestinian people in the West Bank share about their own traumatic experiences – rising sexual violence, abuse at checkpoints, inability to work or obtain basic food items – they are constantly talking about how it compares to people in Gaza. 

When Palestinians from the West Bank call our hotlines for mental health support, they say that they don't want to take too many minutes of the time of the counselor on the other end because they want to preserve minutes for the people in Gaza. 

This is commendable, but the truth is, people across the region are suffering. I heard consistently from people in the West Bank about the economic impact of this war on their lives and livelihoods. Women are experiencing much more significant threats at checkpoints. It is incredibly difficult for women to travel from place to place so that they can do their business. No one is being allowed outside of the West Bank and into Israel to work. And there is an uptick in physical and sexual violence. This is taking an economic and social toll on people who are trapped in place. 

But, wow, our partners are so resilient. Some of them are traveling (when they are granted the right to travel) to reach the most isolated women and provide them encouragement; to provide food vouchers or food itself so people survive this period of time, this period of escalation.

I also had the opportunity over these past two weeks to travel into Israel and meet some of our incredible partners there who are addressing violence against women in all its forms. These feminist organizations are finding ways to bring people together across divides – women who are engaging with other women in solidarity, whether they are Jewish Israelis, Palestinian Israelis, or different identity. They know that the only way that we will foster peace and build a future is if we stand together, woman to woman. 

Our partners in Israel speak about how heartbreaking it is to see what's unfolding in Gaza. They share their own fears as well. What does the future hold for all of the people that live in this land? They talked to me about what happened to them on October 7th – it was a shock, and it has caused deep, enduring pain. They worry about the fate of the hostages and hope for their safe return. 

I am grateful to have had the chance to bear witness to women’s heartache and their bravery. While we desperately need the United Nations resolution of an immediate ceasefire to be implemented so that lifesaving aid can make it through and for all those held captive to be safely released, we also keep going.  

Our relentless focus is on providing emergency support in Gaza and with long-term rebuilding efforts in the region. We are committed to supporting as many women as possible with the skills and resources they need to rebuild their lives, families and communities. This is made possible thanks to the expertise of our local staff, partners, and the dedicated support of this global community.

Palestine Woman Behind Fence
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