Support to women and children starts with a ceasefire

The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation has supported women’s organisations in conflict-affected regions for 30 years. Today, we partner with more than 100 local women’s organisations and collaborate with women human rights defenders across the world, and we have been present in the context for two decades.

We continue to urge the international community to come together and use all diplomatic channels to call on all parties for an immediate and comprehensive ceasefire to avoid further civilian killings, human suffering, ensure humanitarian access and release the hostages.

When we manage to get in contact with partners in Gaza, they express great fear and describe the situation as horrifying and uncertain. Families are dispersed and panic, confusion and desperation are growing every hour. Almost everyone has left their homes and is trying to find shelter in schools, or with relatives. Several of our partner organisations have lost colleagues and family members.

The ground offensive by Israeli forces into Gaza has worsened the situation for civilians and UN experts warn that time is running out to prevent genocide, as whole families are being wiped out.

We echo the UN Secretary-General’s statement that the attacks by Hamas cannot justify the collective punishment of the Palestinian people as carried out in Gaza as well as in the West Bank, where over 2,000 people have been arbitrary arrested and numerous residential houses have been demolished since October 7th. International Humanitarian Law states the obligation of all parties to protect and limit harm to civilians, to protect the provision of humanitarian access, and that attacks must be proportionate to the anticipated military advantage.

As always during war and conflict, the most vulnerable groups among the population are hit hardest: women, girls, young children, persons with disabilities, and elderly persons.

Our experience from various conflicts is that the risk for gender-based violence increases as well as the risk for sexual exploitation, trafficking and forced marriages. Loss of livelihoods, housing and land disproportionately affects female-headed households and widows. UN Women has also issued warnings about the increased risks for women and girls in Gaza.

Last week, a delegation from Kvinna till Kvinna consisting of partners and colleagues from the South Caucasus, the Western Balkans, sub-Saharan Africa and the MENA region participated in an international conference on Shaping Feminist Foreign Policy, hosted by the government of the Netherlands.

In times of crisis, policies are put to the test. The adoption of a Feminist Foreign Policy has to mean something in practice. It requires taking concrete action to ensure the meaningful participation of women in all their diversity, access to resources, and pushing for the fulfilment of women’s human rights. It means having a gender perspective throughout all actions and challenging unequal power relations everywhere.

Implementing a Feminist Foreign Policy in relation to the unfolding situation also requires getting to root causes of the conflict as the ongoing crisis is not just humanitarian—it is very much political. A Feminist Foreign Policy must prioritise human security over militarised security and aim for long-term sustainable solutions where the occupation ends.

Based on this, we urge all governments with a Feminist Foreign Policy, and governments who state gender equality as a key value, to show leadership and put their policies into practice, including by ensuring continued support to women’s organisations in Palestine and calling for an immediate ceasefire. To abstain from this call allows the violence and killings of civilians to continue and the situation for women and girls in Gaza to deteriorate.

—The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation

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