A statement of the World YWCA Board
For decades, the world has been witnessing vicious wars and genocides conducted against several countries and the innocent civilians that are terrorized. These wars create humanitarian crises, lead to displacement and impoverishment of millions of people, and give birth to generational trauma – all this is based on the decision of small groups that hold power. These wars always affect women the most – women who are often already in adverse situations, with the war exacerbating an already marginalized situation. We see this again and again in so many countries all over the world, like Afghanistan, Armenia, Iraq, Syria, Haiti, and many Latin American countries, just to mention a few. As one of the largest women’s movements globally, our collective mission is to empower women, especially young women, to change power structures, to create justice, gender equality, and a world without violence or war, assuring dignity and freedom for all.
The situation in Gaza and Israel requires that, as women and as a movement, we recognize our virtuous mission and act on its implementation. As free citizens of the world, as young women and women, we express our deep concern for the genocide being conducted against Gaza and the continued silence of the big powers enacting a destructive agenda against humanity.
Since 1948, the Palestinian population has been facing the most extreme and protracted military occupation in modern history. Several United Nations (UN) resolutions have been issued but not implemented. Several peace accords have been initiated, but none have succeeded. These failed resolutions and peace accords fail, they do not solve the root causes of the Palestinian problem. They do not offer Palestinians their basic rights, including the right to return and the right to establish an independent state. Therefore, the potential for a sustainable and just peace is not realized. Thus, innocent civilians in the Middle East continue to die, with women and children the most affected.
In early October, after almost 18 years of the complete siege of Gaza, with 2.2 million Gazans living in what most reasonable people would call an untenable and inhumane situation and with a poverty level of over 60%, today Israel, supported by superpowers, is conducting a blatant genocide against Gazans. The sexual and reproductive health of women is adversely affected, for example, with a severe lack of menstrual hygiene products in shelters, no access to contraception, limited or no access to regular or emergency obstetric care, and no proper delivery and post-delivery services and protection for pregnant women, who are left to struggle for survival or die on the streets.
Israel claims a right to self-defense without claiming to be an Occupier. Israel has been striking civilians with phosphorous bombs and using other banned weapons that have killed over 12,000 people, 60% of whom are women and children. Israel has bombed churches, mosques, schools, hospitals, and infrastructure in Gaza and continues to deny Gazans electricity, fuel, and water.
As shared in the recent message from YWCA Palestine, the impact of the war on Palestinians has been the most devastating on women and children, with more than 4,100 children and 2,600 women killed.
Millions of people are demonstrating in their countries, calling for a cease-fire and an international rescue response for the humanitarian crisis that has escalated beyond what was thought possible. The actions of those in power are against the international Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
As one of the largest women’s movements globally, we remind global citizens and member states of the landmark UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000) on Women, Peace, and Security, which recognizes that armed conflict affects women and children most adversely and the right of women for protection and for engaging in post-war and conflict resolution.
Since 1948, the ills of war and occupation have directly impacted millions of women and children in the Middle East region, leaving them homeless, with no protection, and, most recently, with no safe space to go to. Israel has been evacuating the whole North of Gaza, and as people have been moving to the South, Israel has intensified its bombing. In the last few days, more than 1,500 civilians have been burnt and killed by these bombs, again mostly women and children.
Perversely, the evacuation, framed as a humanitarian effort, provides no relief and only has increased danger and chaos for those in Gaza.
In 1920, the World YWCA World’s Committee, meeting in Champery, Switzerland, made the following Statement of Peace: The World’s YWCA, including as it does women of all nations, shall give itself to the development of public opinion on international questions such as shall strengthen all those forces which are working for the avoidance of war and the promotion of peace and better understanding among the nations.
Since then, YWCA has provided leadership in conflict and post-conflict spaces for over a century, and the global movement has adopted resolution after resolution toward a vision of peace and justice in homes, communities, countries, regions, and the world.
World YWCA asks all YWCA associations and leaders to take these immediate actions:
- Call on their governments and those in power to pursue diplomatic means to satisfy demands of each, to have a cease-fire immediately and allow for humanitarian aid and fuel to enter Gaza.
- Demand that their governments and those in power to implement their obligations to prevent and protect against war crimes and genocide before more atrocities are committed.
- Demand their governments and those in power that bombing civilians and basic infrastructure like schools, hospitals, and shelters and all civilian infrastructure, is stopped, most especially banned arms.
- Call on their governments and those in power to take positive and firm steps towards ending the Israeli Occupation and working towards a just settlement that offers Palestinians their sovereign rights for the establishment of their own state on their historic land.
Thursday, November 9, 2023