Interview was conducted by Editors-in-Chief
Amal Al Harithi & Mira Khatib
When you hear the name Dr. Hanan Ashrawi one can only bow down in admiration to her numerous accomplishments and ongoing efforts. A Palestinian legislator, activist and scholar reaching highest of political ranks. She served as the official spokesperson for the Palestinian Delegation to the Middle East peace process, and has been elected several times to the Palestinian Legislative Council, and is the first woman elected to the Palestinian National Council. Dr. Ashrawi also serves on the Advisory Board of several international and local organizations. A brilliant spokeswoman, writer and poet at the same time a wonderful mother for two daughters and a loving grandmother to her three grandchildren.
Arab Woman Mag had the honor of speaking to Dr. Ashrawi where she shared with us a bit about her childhood and upbringing:
My parents believed in us and gave us freedom to explore, learn and grow. My father; a supporter of women’s rights, encouraged us to travel and earn higher education. My father taught me to be bold when it comes to truths, and who stands up against occupation will surely stand against all kinds of injustice, especially the kind that falls upon women. Parent’s awareness is essential to having the positive atmosphere needed to raise creative and successful women.
How should parents raise their girls to mold them into future women leaders?
Parents should provide their daughters with the right tools and allow them to express their talents and gain self-confidence, teaching them how to deal with life’s realities while instilling in them high morals and ethics to help stand against injustice.
Regarding the role of Palestinian women, Dr. Ashrawi added:
The role of women in Palestine is one of being active, refusing exclusion and marginalization. The woman is a man’s partner in life and its struggles. She stood up against occupation and demanded rights and resisted oppression. For a woman who is opposing injustice will never accept or give in to other forms of discriminations and cruelties. The Palestinian woman refuses double standards and therefor is against man’s domination which resembles in some ways an occupation. Today’s woman has excelled in all walks of life, in education, economy, and politics many becoming ministers in governments.When I was elected as the first woman to the Palestinian National Council it was somewhat of a revolution, one that I would have not achieved without the support of other women and the backing of trusting men. After receiving such support and trust of many women, I decided to commit my efforts to help empower women and help open doors to them as well.
Why is it, that women in general are afraid to demand their rights in the Arab world?
I understand the fear that a woman might have to stand up against injustice and ask for equality, society can be harsh, and rebelling against some of the wrongly inherited traditions requires courage and risk taking. It is easy to inflict damage to a woman’s reputation if she steers away from the accepted norms of society. The best solution is to find allies and have support of open minded, knowledgeable, and confident men. To be part of civil organizations that support her vision as they help open the doors to gaining her rights. One of my proudest achievements is in civil work and establishing organizations that help empower women and excel in their lives.
Dr. Ashrawi is also known for her moving poetry that commemorates the death of martyrs whom where lost by the brutal hand of the occupier, with all your responsibilities do you find the time for literature and poetry?
I have a passion for literature and poetry and I do miss my academic career and teaching, and I do hope that I find time for that in the future, but for the time being politics remain my focus and takes up the majority of my time.
(Translated from Arabic)