Why I Became a Human Rights Defender

No peace will be achieved without us women.

I didn’t choose to become a Human Rights Defender, but my experience of injustice on a daily basis made me one. This is why I joined IMatter.

Amani Aruri. Credit: Oxfam

Being a woman born and raised in Palestine made me the person who I am today. Since I was born, I have lived the injustices of being oppressed by the last and longest occupation and by the existing patriarchal system in my country.

Every day, I went through military checkpoints, and got subjected to intimidation not only for being a Palestinian, but for being a woman. I watch in silence as my sons get intimidated by Israeli soldiers while going to school.

But it was not just the occupation. Living in a conservative society with very limited opportunities for women, especially young women, constantly subjected me to social restrictions, discriminatory laws, and political and social violence. I have been stigmatized by my society for choosing to be independent and for choosing the life I want to live.

For this reason, I have spent the last 10 years defending the rights of Palestinian women, starting from demanding my own rights to choose a life free from violence and to have equal opportunities as men, to inspiring other women in my society to break their silence and speak out. I want the people all over the world to know about the everyday brutalities of the Israeli occupation. I want them to realize what it means to live in Palestine, where you can live in your own land but with no control over any resource and no enjoyment of your basic human rights, including rights to life and to freedom of movement.

But no one woman can change the Palestinian women reality alone. Joining forces with other human rights defenders from all over the world to stand with Palestinian women and show their solidarity will definitely change our current situation. These are all reasons to keep fighting for peace and justice. This is why I joined the #IMatter campaign — a campaign that highlights the stories of women who have the courage to fight for their rights.

I joined this global campaign to convey a message to women and girls that “You matter” and “We Matter”. No peace will be achieved without us, and we need to work together to take an active role in public life.

By joining this global solidarity movement, I am also standing with other women in every country of conflict around the world, because they too matter, and their voices must be heard. In conflicts, women are usually left behind, ignoring their capabilities, strength, and their leadership role they deserve.

My goal is to elevate the voices of women at the national and global levels, and to have women realize that they can achieve more by standing together and showing their strength and resilience. Women have the right to have equal participation in the political and economic life, and if they’re not given a seat, they should bring their chairs and take their opportunities.

I know IMatter will give hope, power, and courage to other women in their communities; and women who live similar contexts from other countries to join the battle for peace and justice and reveal the untapped potential of these women.

What motivates me is believing in the power of solidarity, of standing with other women and girls who can’t speak out. Seeing other women and girls inspired by my activism, and hearing them say; “you give me strength and hope”.

By Amani Aruri, Palestinian Human Rights Defender and Advocate for Gender Equality — for December 10, Human Rights Day

Oxfam is a world-wide development organization that mobilizes the power of people against poverty.

Oxfam is a world-wide development organization that mobilizes the power of people against poverty.