Written by: Anastacia Dadashpour
Today March 27th, the Boulder Nablus Sister City delegation spent most of the day at An Najah University. We began the day by meeting with the President, the Vice President, the Dean of the School of Education Dr. Assali, who has visited Boulder, and a panel of other university officials.
We discussed developing collaborations and educational opportunities between the two cities and and between An Najah and CU and DU. We learned that An Najah supports 132 different undergraduate, graduate and PhD level degrees and is ranked among the top 2 percent of universities in the Arab world. There are many opportunities to collaborate across fields. Their semesters are the same as the USA and they are able to transfer credits.
We were shown around the old campus and New Campus seeing the Media Center, which was profoundly well equipped and transmits a news show across the region.
We also met many students, visited the American Corner, which is a resource center for the population of Nablus and beyond.
We then had lunch with our hosts and half of the delegation went to a talk called Feminism in the Age of Trump, which Anastacia Dadashpour and Osie Adelfang led in the Women’s Studies department.
We started the conversation by asking the women what characteristics make you feel strong, give you power, define your femininity, how do you express/carry your power? We then talked a bit about intersectionality, the idea that we are all connected in a shared experience. Feminism cannot just be privileged women; we are all in a struggle together.
The women began to raise their hands to share and a trifle of sharing became a torrent. Here are a few of the notes that I took, mostly through a translator, about the Palestinian women’s comments during the hour-long conversation.
- Women’s Rights are Human Rights
- We have the right to be productive, to rebel, to work, to have feelings and fears, to have an active and free life inside of the home as well as outside
- We need to have equitable partnerships between men and women
- There is no way to separate women from the larger community
- Women need more freedom in social life (One woman shared that she was unable to take a scholarship to study abroad because her father wouldn’t approve it.)
- Socialization in upbringing supports the continuation of the suppression of women (girls are required to serve and take care of their brothers)
- Inequality in domestic responsibility
- There are few policies and not enough laws that protect women
- Too many gender specific jobs
- There is no equality in salary or benefits
- There is stigmatization and lack of respect when women acheive positions of power
- One woman believed that when women do achieve power she is often a puppet of a man who is trying to affect power through her (this was disputed)
- Men receive an allowance from his employer when he becomes a father but mothers do not receive the same privilege from their employers to take care of their family. This furthers the idea that men know best how to take care of the family and should be responsible for how money is distributed in the home.
- It is difficult for women to get insurance without a man (husband, father or brother) overseeing this for her
- There is not one vision of the feminist movement in Palestine
- There is a creed that women will have full rights when the Palestinians have full rights (these women challenged this by saying it is a myth and that the Palestinian people will not have full rights until all of them can work together and women have full rights to participate in every aspect of society)
- They acknowledged that they live in a more progressive society than many other Arab countries
- Women need to have economic power (currently a woman cannot open a bank account without a male supervisor and fathers will often confiscate their daughters’ salaries and will even refuse to let their daughters’ marry because once a daughter is married her salary is the property of the husband)
- Education is a tool of empowerment although more women are educated and fewer women are represented in the work force
- Women do not have the right to get their children passports or to control their travel
- Women need to have supervision by a man to get a bank account (the man therefore has ultimate control over how that bank account is used)
- Women are not able to change a child’s school without a male family member’s supervision
- A positive development is that after a divorce, a woman’s ID now says that she is single, not divorced
- One woman said that one of the mechanisms for change is being brave, trying new things and breaking stereotypes
- One participant said that she had grown up with the strength and support of her brother and father, but after she got married her strength was taken from her by her husband
- We spent the afternoon at a Samaritan village on their holiest of sites, Mount Gerizim. We learned that the Samaritans are a religious sect of about 800 individuals who live at this site and in a southern suburb of Tel Aviv. They profess to be the oldest Jews and hold Israeli and Palestinian ID’s and Jordanian passports. Each is fluent in Arabic, Hebrew and an old version of Hebrew similar to Aramaic.
Dinner was hosted by a local businessman, one who helped to vision and fund the Nablus Arts and Culture Festival. We had a rich conversation about the power of change through art, culture, personal communication and respect.