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WOMEN POWER - A CREATIVE FORCE FOR FREEDOM: by Zahira Kamal (Palestine), ex Women's Affairs Minister


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Time & Location

07 Mar 2021, 08:00

About the Event

Home for Humanity’s Living Curriculum:

“Home, for me, is first of all about love, as well as about support and cooperation – because my own home has witnessed the establishment of almost all the organizations that I helped to co-found throughout my life." 

Zahira Kamal speaks to us from her home in East Jerusalem, a stone’s throw away from the historic Al-Aqsa Mosque. Built in 1936, it is the home in which she was born, and in which she lived most of her incredibly rich political life. It is the home where she endured house-arrest over and over again, and the home which birthed countless women’s organisations promoting women’s rights, education, economic empowerment, and political leadership. It is the home which hosted dialogue across borders and party-lines, and which served as a seedbed for societal transformation. Having lived her life under the continuous threats, oppression and complexity of occupation, Zahira Kamal’s authentic, moving and joyful-against-all-odds account demonstrates the creative and ingenious force of women engaging non-violently, but with forceful determination, for the freedom of their home country. Having experienced imprisonment, arbitrary detention, house arrest and town arrest, Zahira Kamal stayed true to her passion for learning, education, dialogue and non-violence – whether as a young Physics teacher in Palestinian refugee camps run by UNRWA, the United Nations Refugee Works Agency, or later as Palestine’s first minister of Women’s Affairs, and then as the first female secretary general of a political party. Listen in to this historic interview of one of the leading protagonists for Palestinian freedom and self-determination. Learn about Zahira’s fervent advocacy of collaborative development of community, based on the needs of the people. Zahira Kamal maintains: “When you listen to people and you have an eye to look at their need, then you can make something happen.”  But she also warns that “if there is no trust you cannot continue…”.  

Biography: Zahira Kamal has played a major role in Palestinian society, spanning non-governmental, intergovernmental to governmental roles from grassroots to ministerial levels. For her outstanding role as  women’s leader, she was recognised as one of the ‘1000 women for the Nobel Peace Prize’ initiative, which identified 1000 women worldwide whose courageous peace activism merited the Nobel peace prize, which is overwhelmingly awarded to men.

As General Secretary of the Palestinian Democratic Union (FIDA Party) Zahira is the first ever female Secretary-General of a Palestinian political party. She was the first Minister of Women’s Affairs in the Palestinian cabinet, and established the first gender planning and development directorate at the Ministry of Planning.  She was one of three women who participated in the early 1990s negotiations with Israel in Washington D.C., but she did not participate in the Oslo Accords.

Zahira is a founding member of some of the longest standing and most dynamic women’s movements in Palestine. These include Women’s Action Committee, Women Studies Center, Women Center for Legal Aid and Counselling, and Women’s Affairs Technical Committee.  She is also a Co-Founder of Asala: Palestinian Business Women’s Association. From 2006 to 2013 she was the Director of Palestinian Women Research and Documentation Center, a UNESCO project.

She is a Co-Founder of Jerusalem Link and the International Women Commission for Just Peace between Palestinians and Israelis. The IWC brought together Israeli and Palestinian women leaders for 20 years, and they also travelled together to meet women in other war-torn countries, until the IWC was dissolved in 2010.

About the Living Curriculum: The conversation with Zahira Kamal was conducted by Sophie Sozzi and Stefanie Kriech, Members of the Home for Humanity Team 2021. The team worked on the creation of a Home for Humanity Living Curriculum – a task that was embedded in the 2020 “Reshaping International Development” Course at the University of St. Gallen, directed by the co-founders of Home for Humanity. This Living Curriculum is part of the HumanivEARTHsity Programme in Transformative Education of Home for Humanity.

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