The Twin Jenin Friendship Links Group this year organised a special March 8th International Women’s Day celebration. The central figures at the event were a visiting entourage of Palestinian women from the West Bank.
The event was hosted by the at the Brady Arts Centre as part of the Britain Palestine Network Women’s UK Speaking tour 6-16th March.
The nine women group from various towns and villages on the West Bank spent Saturday travelling, visiting the Arab Chamber of commerce, the platform of the Million Women Rise demo, and onto the Gaza demo where they met the illustrious community activist and anti war campaigner Tony Benn.
The Brady Centre showpiece in Whitechapel was held in honour of the women and to provide them with a platform and opportunity to speak about their experiences relating to the constant horrors of the conflict in Palestine. They also related accounts of various projects that they were running in Gaza and the West Bank.
The audience of supporters from all over East London gave the women an fervent, wholehearted and passionate welcome. Manal Shaban from the Agricultural Women’s Co-operative served up a moving and compelling presentation. Palestinian co-operatives are spread all over, including city as well as the urban regions.
-Handicraft and consumer product co-operatives mostly run in the urban areas, while agricultural and marketing co-operatives are to be found mostly in the countryside areas. 29% of co-operatives operate the north of the West Bank. (Nablus, Tulkarem, Qalqilia, Salfit, Jenin).
-28% of co-operatives are found in the middle of the West Bank. (Jerusalem, Ramallah, Jericho).
-31% of co-operatives are to seen in the south of the West Bank. (Bethlehem, Hebron).
-12% of the remaining cooperatives are in the Gaza Strip.
Manal’s presentation was followed by a talk from Wasfia, a Social Worker. Wasfia gave a graphic account of conditions in Beit Leed near Tulkarim and the effect of the wall on their lives.
Rawia, a nurse related experiences regarding the inconvenience of acquiring medical treatment, mainly due to the setting up of 500 checkpoints, which prevent even the movement of a medical outreach mobile unit reaching people in need.
Finola Owens, a twinjenin member who was in Jenin for three months introduced the speakers and there was a discussion about how people in Tower Hamlets could show their support and solidarity. Anna Livingstone, a Tower Hamlets GP, spoke of her hopes about a possible exchange visit to Palestine. Diana Neslen from Jews for Justice for Palestinians, who had just returned from a solidarity visit to Palestine was also amongst the speakers.
On Sunday 9th the women visited St. Barnabas Church in Bow, Tower Hamlets, where they were welcomed and hosted by Father Brian Ralph and his Christian congregation. The group were requested to recount, share and convey their inspirational narrations. Rawia spoke of the need for peace and justice, whilst local woman Rania, also serving as the groups translator recited excerpts from the Holy Quran. Group member Soraya said, “I don’t think anyone here will forget us”.
During their visit what has been most apparent is how these women of Palestine, their families, friends and communities, despite suffering such awful and intense losses, have maintained their dignity. “Their courage, bravery and sense of forgiveness is awe inspiring” said the acclaimed author and Tower Hamlets resident Rabina Khan. “We must use the character and beauty of the dignified efforts and struggles of these females and take their message to the whole world” Khan added.