The Trump administration’s decision to cut USAID funding to all West Bank programs recently took effect. This includes cuts to Israeli-Palestinian co-existence programs, some of which are our peacebuilding partners. The Parents Circle, as an example, had to cut an entire shared narrative program due to lack of funding.
In some ways, women have been disproportionately impacted by this policy. According to one recent report, Palestinian women are losing benefits and employment opportunities, and have to find new providers for many health, education, and sanitation programs. These losses are compounded by the fact that while more Palestinian women are working now than there were 10 years ago, their employment rates still lag behind others in the region.
Despite these challenges, we know that women have a unique role to play in peacebuilding, and many of our peacebuilding partners are led by women. The Parents Circle is represented by Robi Damelin, a grieving mother who inspires people across political, religious, and national divides. Despite losing her son to the conflict, she has built countless bridges between Israelis and Palestinians and spread her message internationally. In 2017, Robi organized an event called “Breaking the Wall Between Us” for International Women’s Day. Events like these are why we are helping to raise money for the Parent’s Circle—we are only $62 away from our goal, please help us cross the finish line.
Other organizations, such as Women Wage Peace, are entirely focused on women. Their membership is almost entirely comprised of women, and their belief is that only women can provide a new perspective that emphasizes peacebuilding instead of violence. They created their movement in the spirit of UN Resolution 1325, recognizing that women must be included in decision making regarding peace and security.
When I was in Bethlehem earlier this year, I met with a Women Wage Peace member who teaches in a Palestinian girls’ high school. She talked about providing her students with poems written by Israeli Jews that express a love of homeland and a connection to the land. If she does not tell them who the poet is, her students will assume the poet is Palestinian, and they are always surprised to find out that the author is Jewish. I am sure the same activity in a Jewish high school would produce the same result.
Women have a key role to play in shaping the future for Israelis and Palestinians. Often, women are at the forefront of peacebuilding, are sharing their narratives, and promoting recognition of the other. This reality is at risk because of USAID cuts to peacebuilding programs. My hope is that we can work together to find ways to turn these victims into the peacebuilders.