Shyrine Ziadeh, is one woman changing the game in Palestine. Ziadeh opened a dance studio in the West Bank City of Ramallah and agrees that, “Many women in the West Bank want to do things, but they can’t. Our culture is generally more of a man’s culture.”
This culture of male dominance in Palestine could be changing however, as an all-female parliamentary group will be making history this month as they enter the running for the upcoming municipal elections in Hebron. This will mark the first vote in over 35 years that could allow Palestinian women into government office and those who are not changing the game at home are traveling far and wide to do it.
Celia E. Rothenberg wrote an essay on Palestinian Women in Toronto: Diversity & Community saying that: “Palestinians have sought out new opportunities not only in the Arab world, but also in significant numbers in Canada, the United States, and other Western countries.”
“Palestinian women are beginning to realize that they have power, and there are a growing number of us who want to claim and exercise that power at any cost,” says Maryam Bayoumi, a Toronto Event Specialist who immigrated from Palestine to Dubai and finally landed in Toronto. “I think it’s important for women everywhere to establish a sense of independence as a way to show the generation after them that they can achieve anything,” adds Bayoumi.
Bayoumi founded her own business, an events consulting agency called Ritzy Events in 2011 and opened herself to a world of leadership and entrepreneurial opportunities, planning and coordinating events and conferences in Toronto, Dubai and Miami, which she would not have had the chance to do living in Palestine.
While so many Palestinian women are focused on taking positions of power, Bayoumi is actually focused on enforcing a position of peace. “It’s great to be in a country where your neighbors religion or political views make no difference and you’re not afraid to tell people where you are from or who you believe in,” says Bayoumi.
“My family and I left Palestine because we wanted equality and a safe life,” she comments. “Living in North America, you can be yourself, do the things you want to do and live to your greatest potential without the limitations that exist back home.”
Maysoun Qawasmi, group leader of the all-female bloc running in the municipal Palestine elections says she wants to see women working like men in all possible jobs they can. After voting a 15-year old girl into the mayor’s office for two months in July, Palestine could be closer than they think to seeing more women and young people in business and politics, but, even if the group fails in its ultimate mission, Qawasmi believes that its very existence will push ajar a door for challenging women’s rights in Hebron that once seemed firmly locked.