The International Women’s Day – an opportunity to celebrate achievements and continue to press for progress

Today, like every year, for more than a century, people around the world will celebrate the International Women’s Day. Press conferences, events, workshops and marches for women’s rights, video contests and numerous other initiatives will mark the day around the world.

By Kauko Aaltomaa, Head of the EU Coordinating Office for Palestinian Police Support (EUPOL COPPS)

At EUPOL COPPS, the European Union Police and Rule of Law Mission for the Occupied Palestinian Territory, we are also marking the day  and reflecting on the past year’s achievements and looking towards the future challenges and opportunities. In all our work with our counterparts in the Palestinian justice and security institutions, our advisers are mindful of the importance of taking a gender sensitive approach. We work to support both women’s participation and fair representation within the police and justice institutions and also to ensure the services rendered to the public are sensitive to women’s needs, in particular the protection from and prevention of gender based violence.

“It has been a very busy year for our Mission and we have engaged, like never before, in numerous activities to support the empowerment and fair treatment of women police officers. We are working hand-in-hand with the Gender Unit at the Palestinian Civil Police to implement their Gender Strategy and to develop new ways to address the shortcomings”, says Head of the Mission’s Police Advisory Section Pekka Kokkonen. For the past six months the Mission’s Gender and Press Officers have supported the Palestinian Civil Police in the development and execution of a communication campaign. The ‘Equal Opportunities’ campaign aims to address the career and employment challenges of women police officers works to identify and promote sustainable solutions to these challenges. EUPOL COPPS is also actively engaged in supporting the development of the first training curricula on gender and on finding ways to address the discriminatory practices with regards to health benefits and retirement rights for women working in the security sector. These are some of the vital issues on which we will continue working the coming year.

In the justice sector we are working in close cooperation with the Palestinian Bar Association to support women lawyers in taking-up leadership positions with the association. “For myself as a prosecutor with over 25 years of experience, I know how important it is for national legislation to be in line with the International Conventions. This is why we are actively supporting the Harmonisation Committee in their efforts to integrate the CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination) recommendations into legislation. We also hope the Family Protection Bill will be soon adopted. It will be a crucial piece of legislation in the fight for the protection of women from all forms of violence and the prosecution of perpetrators”, says Lennart Gune, Director of Public Prosecutions in Sweden, currently working as a Ministerial Legal and Administration Expert in the mission.

Today, Palestine stands at a cross-road. Much has been achieved, but there is still much more to do to press for progress in the field of women’s rights and equality. The institutional capacity and policy framework on women’s rights and equality has already been established. There are national strategies and actions plans to tackle violence against women and promote equality and non-discrimination. There are gender units and gender focal points in most of the administrations and institutions of the Palestinian Authority.

The time has come to implement the policies and strategies and for institutional change. It is not an easy task, and it will not be achieved quickly, but Palestinian women and men can work together to make a difference in their society. We, EUPOL COPPS, stand ready to continue to support the Palestinian people – men and women – in their effort. Happy International Women’s Day and let us all continue to press for progress.