Would women in Gaza really celebrate International Women's Day?" was the question members of our 58 person delegation from United States, Canada, Pakistan, France, Australia, Egypt, Dubai and Turkey asked as we travelled from Cairo to the Gaza border.
In less than three weeks, the delegates had responded to an appeal by Codepink: Women for Peace to join an international delegation to try to go into Gaza at the invitation of the United Nations Works and Relief Agency of Gaza (UNWRA).
Women of Gaza have so little to celebrate.
Women of Gaza were subjected to the 22 day Israeli military attack on Gaza that killed over 1400, including 192 women and over 400 children, and wounded more than 5,000 Palestinians. Women of Gaza waving white flags were killed by Israeli snipers. Women of Gaza standing at kitchen windows were blown apart by Israeli bombs made in the United States. Women of Gaza died in the streets when Israeli soldiers refused to allow emergency medical personnel to help them to hospitals. Women of Gaza watched the bodies of their children melt from white phosphorus wounds. Women of Gaza held their dying children in their arms. Women of Gaza found the bodies of the husbands and children in the rubble of their homes. Women of Gaza now wait for their wounded children to return from hospitals in Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Women of Gaza live in tents because their homes were destroyed in the bombings. Women of Gaza hold children who have nightmares about the bombings they have endured. Women of Gaza wake up from their nightmares about their lives in Gaza.
Women of Gaza have endured 18 months of the blockade of Gaza. Because of the blockade, women of Gaza are prevented from leaving Gaza. Because of the blockade, women of Gaza feed their families from food smuggled through tunnels. Because of the blockade, women of Gaza wait for glass to repair the windows in their homes. Because of the blockade, women of Gaza live with minimum electricity in the home because damaged power plants cannot be repaired. Because of the blockade, women of Gaza cook cannot get cooking gas and cook with wood. Because of the blockade, communication with the rest of the world is difficult.
Our delegation on March 8, International Women's Day, while visiting with over 1000 women in 13 different community development centers throughout Gaza, found that women of Gaza do celebrate.
The women of Gaza celebrate - their determination to survive.
But the women of Gaza wonder why women of the world are silent about the Israeli military attacks on them and the 18 month blockade of their country.
And that is why we were there-- in Gaza, on International Women's Day, to stand in solidarity with the women of Gaza.
We Will Not Be Silent!