‘Falastiniyat’: on a mission to shatter stereotypes of Palestinian women

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(Illustration: Alaa Rustom)

By: Orouba Othman

Published Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Palestinian media has always been rife with stereotypical cliches about women. It does not hesitate to impose preconceived ideas on Palestinian reality, without attempting to explain it.

Gaza – Palestinian journalist Wafa Abdel-Rahman established Falastiniyat in 2005. It is an organization working with Palestinian women media workers and acting as a bridge between them, despite the borders and geographical barriers between the West Bank and Gaza Strip. It currently boasts a total of 290 women journalists from Gaza and the West Bank. Falastiniyat focuses on the activities of the Debate Club and the Women in Media Club, in addition to a Programs Department providing satellite channels with political and social reports and documentaries it produces. Not only does the organization offer services to professional journalists, but also provides several training courses to female students in media colleges and recent graduates.

The organization also created a program with the same name, Falastiniyat, as a spirited attempt to recreate the media landscape using concepts that break the stereotypical image of women. The program is expected to start broadcasting soon and will tackle issues from a feminist perspective.

This experiment is notable in choosing issues and causes without discrimination based on gender or class. It sheds light on all types of social interactions, daily events, and news.

The repercussions of the latest Israeli war on Gaza will take up the majority of issues presented. This is due to the increasingly negative impact of the Israeli-imposed siege on the Strip for the past eight years and the reconstruction process proposed by the same hands that turned it into rubble.

It is true that tackling such issues in the media should be done without any hesitation. However, the clear instability in the social fabric in Gaza in particular imposed a particular color on the program and distanced it from addressing taboos and transgressing red lines.

In its first episode, Falastiniyat addressed the mechanism of reconstruction, with a segment on post-war psychological support for Gazans. In other episodes, it will discuss why young Palestinians are not at the forefront of politics and the overwhelming frustration they feel due to the lack of opportunities, caused particularly by the war's devastation of the economy.

This frustration led some of them to lose their lives in the Mediterranean last month while attempting to flee the Strip illegally on makeshift boats after falling prey to money-driven individuals and their mafias.

The program also tackles the humanitarian disaster concerning the drinking water crisis in Gaza, where 95 percent of it was found to be contaminated.

Despite the somber Palestinian reality, the program offers a silver lining by presenting feminist role models capable of describing reality in a precise analytical manner. Such types of analysts, experts, specialists, and informed young women allow Falastiniyat to work on several ideas. One of which is that political analysis should not be confined to men, and as such they have a women-only guest list, and the program's team is composed of 10 women.

This could be the most crucial point as Palestinian media always relegates women's role in the media to presenting and producing programs, without allowing them a space in editing, operating cameras, or sound engineering for example.

The program also explores the skills of 10 feminists in all aspects of television work. The team is composed of documentary film-makers and satellite TV presenters among others. It allows women to leave the offices and be on the field, in front and behind the cameras, which is unaccustomed to in Gaza due to the restrictions on women's freedoms.

The crew wanders the streets of Gaza and the West Bank and its cameras penetrate the camps and their narrow alleys to produce field reports in harmony with the nature of the issues being addressed in the studio. Each installment produces two reports each from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank to be aired before each of the three themes in every episode.

This allows to strengthen the content and survey public opinion. The program's team focuses on the idea of refusing to separate between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in a structured manner. It adopts a unifying discourse demonstrating common concerns and issues. It also plans to broadcast six installments from Gaza and six from the West Bank.

The program, hosted by the head of Falastiniyat, Wafa Abdel-Rahman, will be broadcast on al-Falastiniya satellite channel and the local Watan TV, in addition to al-Shaab and Alwan radio stations.

Follow Orouba Othman on Twitter: [email protected]

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.


I do hope that Palestine men will open up to the equality of women.

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