Advancing the rights of women in the West Bank periphery, Palestine
The objective of the project was to promote social change and empower women in the West Bank to increase their participation within local governance, specifically in urban and environmental planning at the level of local councils. The project also aimed to increase public awareness and support for women’s participation in local governance and urban and environmental planning. The project was implemented in the north, middle and south of the West Bank, focusing on zones where the Israeli authorities have control of land use. Upskilling local councils through the training of women – both elected and aspiring to election – was particularly relevant as it filled a specific and significant need to developing community governance in the most challenging areas of the West Bank.
Lessons from Project
There will need to be more effort to engage men in understanding both the importance of urban planning and the need to involve women in urban planning processes. While some of the women believed that the best way to do this is to offer training to the men too, this would reduce the women’s comparative advantage. A better way to proceed may be to consider a focus on youth in the community who are more open to the concept of gender equity and who will be the local councillors of the future.
The project did not meet all its targets in relation to the number of community members, in particular men, who would be engaged by the activities in Palestine. However, the grantee used this as an opportunity to learn lessons on the challenges of persuading men to consider new approaches to community decision making. The grantee may have benefited from help in this area of implementation from an organization with some expertise in mobilizing men’s participation; alternatively, it might have looked at an alternative forum to include men in the project.
The restrictions on travel imposed on participants required the grantee to spend more on transport and accommodation than originally budgeted for. This put the project seriously at risk. While the grantee was able to cover some of this shortfall through its own funds this was not without consequences for the financial well-being of the organization. While including logistics expenditure from the outset in the budget projections may have helped, in situations where movement is restricted, transport and accommodation costs are unavoidable.
The project engaged the two West Bank universities that have urban planning programmes, so that the concept and practice of women’s representation and participation in this field can be mainstreamed into the education of future urban planners, architects and engineers. The project also built strong ties with relevant Ministries as well as with UNHABITAT, so that the methodology and outcomes were embedded into work with possible future partners.
While the impact of increased skills in urban planning on the development of West Bank communities will take some time to materialize, some of the participants were able to access work placements and as a result were likely to be able to compete more equitably for urban planning jobs. In addition, women from these groups have provided input to the Palestinian Authority’s Physical Planning Manual.
Travel restrictions were imposed on the majority of participants and in particular on travel into Jerusalem. Because of these difficulties, the project’s activities were decentralized as far as possible, although security disruptions during the project meant that some training had to be relocated to Ramallah. The grantee therefore opened a project office in Ramallah.
The project’s focus was unusual as it specifically focused on urban planning as a tool for the empowerment of women within their communities and the labour market in Palestine. This innovative approach to equipping women with skills and understanding that gave them a comparative advantage – particularly in forums where they and the voices of women in general are traditionally under-represented such as local government bodies – was highly relevant.