According to the United Nations, Gender-based Violence (GBV) is any violent act that is directed at a person based on their gender.1 GBV is a health and protection issue and a human rights violation.1 It affects about one in three women worldwide, and certainly more so in poor countries and conflict and fragile settings. According to a 2019 survey by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics in 2019, nearly one in three women in Palestine reported violence in the form of psychological, physical, sexual, social, or economic abuse by their husbands at least once during the preceding 12 months.2
This article is based on an interview conducted with Farah (name changed for privacy and protection purposes) as part of my consultancy with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in 2020.
Farah, a 30-year old woman from a town near Nablus city in the West Bank, Palestine. She recalls her difficult childhood, and how she was never able to pursue her ambitions to continue her high-school diploma. She suffered years of verbal, physical and sexual abuse at the hands of her father.
When Farah was 20 years old, she was forced by her family into marriage to a man she did not know. “I could not tolerate the marriage. He had psychological issues and was abusing me. Three years later, I got a divorce and went back to my parents’ house, where I faced an even worse abuse from my father.”
She was again forced into marriage at the age of 24 to a man in his sixties, and left him a month later because he was beating her the whole time. A year later, Farah met a 34-year old man. She thought he was kind, at first, but soon after he asked her for money and then left her. He threatened to kill her if she reported him, and her family refused to help her.
Farah was then referred to the Family Defence Society women’s shelter. This shelter is one of two shelters only in Palestine. It provides comprehensive services for women facing high-risk GBV. These services include legal, health and psychological services, and economic empowerment. UNFPA in Palestine also funds training such as on ceramic-making and embroidery, in order to support financial independence for female survivors of GBV.
Farah’s story is one example of the many successful stories of women surviving GBV. Albeit on the other side, we still hear of heartbreaking stories of GBV victims around the world.
This story is an example of hope and determination. It emphasises the need of an effective protection system at a policy level. Shelters are only one part of these protection mechanisms. UNFPA in Palestine supports a national referral system whereby each GBV case is directed to the needed organisation and services. These include: legal, psychosocial, health, and sheltering services.
Farah’s story is inspiring and shows that through the right services and support, a life can be saved, and dreams can be pursued.
Legal and social reforms are required in Palestine and worldwide to ensure that GBV is prevented in the first place, such as by combatting lack of enforcement of the laws which punish and/or deter perpetrators.
More from Rasha Kaloti here.