this is a speech/presentation given by my heroine, a palestinian woman/mother who lives in a village in the south hebron hills and organizes women from six neighboring villages in a women’s co-operative. she is a leader and for me one of the most amazing organizers i have ever met. she is the woman who sparked my vision for revolutionary motherhood. her fierceness, perception, vision, sense of humor, and commitment to her community’s life is my inspiration.
(in this she mentions some of my favorite people from the village, hafez, nasser, her husband, and saber. these three men will always hold a special place in my heart for how much they taught me and supported me .)
shukran ktir to joy for posting this.
I want to speak to you about the position of the women in At-Tuwani village. First of all, women in this village suffer from very conservative cultural traditions. In regards to education, which is a right of women to have, unfortunately most of the women in At-Tuwani are illiterate. They have only managed to study through third grade. The role of the women is to work on the fields with the men and to have children and care for them. Five years ago, we gathered the women and decided we needed to make a slight change to our lives.
You should that know that women have rights and even though women’s rights have not been meet, we have decided to form a women’s cooperative. Even though, when we meet and decide what we wanted to do, we still had to consult with the men of the village. At first, they objected very strongly and they said, “Your role is just to care for your homes and your children, and to work in the fields.” We did not accept their rejection and therefore we had to think of activities to do, things that do not get in the way of the traditions and the culture that we live in. So we agreed, as most of the women are quite skilled in embroidery, even though they were not taught it but are skilled because many generations of tradition, we could use that as a starting point.
We came up with the idea of doing embroidery work to improve the economy of the village because of the settlers and the settlements around us and the way they confiscate our land and attack our homes and flocks. All of these was effecting the women of the village and our children. So we had to again bring it to the men of the village because of we had some support, but not a majority. The most important support for me was from my husband, Hafez, and Saber, the mayor of the village.
Now many girls are able to finish high school and there are three girls in university.
The women here feel that they have two types of nonviolent resistance: one is against the occupation and one about men. For example, at first the men objected to our work, but slowly they came to see it differently. I see this as our victory. We did it without posing difficulties or causing problems in family or separations in marriages. Gradually, the idea grew.
In terms of the rest of the village, another example of our nonviolent resistance is the building of the school. Initially, the Israeli government forbid it and the Israeli army was arresting the teachers as they were coming to build the school. Despite that, we continued with it. The teachers and the architect would work on the building in the evening and the women would work in the day to make the cement for the school. Whenever the military used to come to see if there were men working on the site, they would see only women. So, they would just pass by. First we built three classrooms. Then we built another nine and now our children have access to further education.
When the Israeli army said that the school was under demolition order, we said ,“Fine. You can do that. We will rebuild it.” The same happened with the mosque up the hill. They demolished it and we rebuilt it. The same thing happened when we built the clinic. The men would work at night when the army was not watching carefully and during the day the women would work.
Now we also have nonviolent resistance about electricity. When Tony Blaire visited Tuwani he said “We have to bring electricity to Tuwani.” The Israeli authorities informed Tony Blaire that it was not forbidden for them to get electricity. The electric company started to work to put up the pylons and the power lines, but then they were forced to stop and haven’t started again. On a winter day in December, we noticed that that was a lot of activity at the bottom of the road, while they were putting up the electric pylons. The whole village went down to the main road and saw that the army had brought bulldozers and police and everything necessary to take down the pylons. They said that they wanted to enter the rest of the village to take all of the pylons. The mayor of the village told us to block the road with stones. The military whenever they saw a man from the village wanting to speak with them, they were ready to arrest them. So the women said to the men, “You stay at home where you are so you are not arrested and we will go in front of the military and deal with them.” It was a very cold, rainy winter day. All of the women went down in front of the army jeeps, arm in arm, with our children in front of us, and forbid the army from entering the village. The commander order the soldiers to throw tear gas to frighten the women away. They were also revving the engines of the jeeps to scare us, but we said “We’re really cold! The warmth from the jeep is good!” Then they opened the door of the jeeps and we were surprised to see many female Israeli soldiers with their army gear. They were ordered to face the women of the village. The military women came towards us. They were ordered to start beating us. We said, “Come on! We’re ready! We’re not wearing the gear that you’re wearing. All we are asking for is our rights and all we are asking for is electricity.” One of the women soldiers guested to the commander, saying “No.” Then she returned for the jeep. The women of the started saying to woman soldiers, “Come, are you afraid? Are you afraid to talk with us? Come and talk with us!” But I said that I believe that they returned to the jeep because they knew what they were doing was wrong and that we weren’t asking for much. The soldiers took down two pylons but they weren’t able to enter the village to remove the rest of them. God willing, we will be continue our struggle to get electricity. Whether by solar power or by something else, we will continue