Civil society-led Emergency Preparedness for Women with Disabilities in Gaza

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Gaza has long been a place of desperate need, with huge challenges in all areas of civic life. Devastating escalations in violence not only destroy lives and infrastructure, but also hope and aspiration. In the midst of this, the most marginalized people are often ignored or forgotten. As part of the Within and Without the State programme, community researchers worked with women with disabilities to enable them to devise a plan for periods of crisis. This included strengthening emergency preparedness, coordinating assistance, ensuring shelters are disability-friendly and supporting long-term advocacy for women with disabilities.
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  OXFAM CASE STUDY JANUARY 2017 www.oxfam.org  Rebuilding in the ruins of Gaza. Anas al Baba/Oxfam CIVIL SOCIETY-LED EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS FOR WOMEN WITH DISABILITIES IN GAZA   Gaza has long been a place of desperate need, with huge challenges in all areas of civic life. Devastating escalations in violence not only destroy lives and infrastructure, but also hope and aspiration. In the midst of this, the most marginalized people are often ignored or forgotten. As part of the Within and Without the State   programme, community researchers worked with women with disabilities to enable them to devise a plan for periods of crisis. This included strengthening emergency preparedness, coordinating assistance, ensuring shelters are disability-friendly and supporting long-term advocacy for women with disabilities.  2 CONTEXT Man-made disasters Gaza is vulnerable to both man-made and natural emergencies, both of which bring severe humanitarian consequences. Man-made disasters in Gaza relate largely to the devastation brought by war and the illegal blockade imposed by Israel. From December 2008  – January 2009, Israel conducted Operation Cast Lead, a 22-day assault that resulted in the deaths of more than 1,440 Palestinians, the majority of them civilians, and more than 4,300 injuries 1 . In November 2012, Israel carried out Operation Pillar of Defence, killing over 158 Palestinians in Gaza in eight days, mostly civilians. 2  In the summer of 2014, Operation Protective Edge brought Gaza the worst destruction it had seen in decades. 2,251 Palestinians, including 1,462 civilians, were killed. At the height of hostilities, the number of internally displaced people reached 500,000, or 28 per cent of the population in Gaza. 3  Restrictions on importing essential building materials mean that the rebuilding of some homes has yet to begin. In addition to its military operations, Israel has placed Gaza under a blockade which restricts the movement of goods and people. As a direct or indirect consequence of the illegal Israeli blockade, the basic rights of Palestinians in Gaza continue to be violated, including the rights to a livelihood, clean water and access to basic services, freedom of movement, and the right to safety from harm. Natural disasters Gaza is also subject to increasingly severe winter storms, damaging winds and flooding rains. In 2010, 2012 and 2013, Gaza experienced winter storms that led to severe humanitarian consequences as a result of the subsequent flooding. Storms exacerbate the already poor humanitarian situation for large segments of the Palestinian population, particularly in the Gaza Strip, which is already coping with an acute fuel and energy crisis. Women with disabilities In Gaza, just under 40,000 people live with disabilities, around half of whom are women. Disabled persons organizations have struggled to mainstream gender within their programmes’ strategies and policies. In this context , Oxfam and the action research team, in coordination with the Palestinian non-government organization (PNGO) coalition worked together to establish a coordination mechanism which was fully functioning by May 2015. The coordination mechanism consists of eight member organizations that form a coalition of civil society organizations (CSOs), with representation from four women’s sector organizations and four disabled persons organizations. In order to ensure a well structured coordination mechanism, the coalition and its members ran a gap assessment study in November 2015.  3 WITHIN AND WITHOUT THE STATE Within and Without the State (WWS) is a five-year global initiative (2011  – 2016) funded by DfID's Conflict, Humanitarian and Security programme. This has enabled Oxfam to pilot a variety of approaches to working with civil society to promote more accountable governance in conflict-affected and fragile contexts. Phase I In the Occupied Palestinian Territory, WWS piloted an action research project in Phase I. Action research empowers selected community members to interview a wide range of community members, with the aim of discovering their priorities for development and change. This not only reveals new information and programming opportunities but also empowers those conducting the research. The research topic chosen for Gaza was the role of CSOs in advocating on national and public opinion issues; the topic for the West Bank was to understand what measures donors are taking to assist civil society, as well as the role of civil society in the occupation. In cooperation with the Institute for Development Studies, the groups wrote up their research in 2013. 4  In the West Bank, one group ran a community-led assessment of development projects, which they have developed into a booklet for others to learn from. The other West Bank group worked with community-based organizations to increase their influence over development and governance initiatives in their area. 5  In Gaza, the group designed a project that sought to ensure the input of community members into new programme design. The group in Gaza designed three innovative and responsive initiatives under which a number of NGOs in the same sector coordinated and cooperated in planning, implementation and follow-up of the initiatives, with full ownership. Project suspended: In 2014, the WWS programme was suspended for five months as a result of the renewed outbreak of conflict. New project design for Phase II In the aftermath of the conflict in 2014, WWS action researchers identified the lack of a coordinated approach by NGOs to address the issues faced by more marginalized groups in Gaza, particularly in times of conflict. WWS also recognized the challenges of implementing an overarching programme across very different communities in Gaza and the West Bank, and including East Jerusalem and Israel. The community research approach of Phase I again demonstrated to WWS the vital importance of listening to the actual needs of communities. WWS II aimed to introduce a new model of effective cooperation for two important sectors working within a very complex sociopolitical environment: women with disabilities.  4 HOW OXFAM SUPPORTED A CIVIL SOCIETY  – LED CONTINGENCY PLANNING PROCESS Following the identification of the need to prioritize the unmet needs of women with disabilities in Gaza, Oxfam worked alongside civil society researchers to identify and form a CSO coalition, conduct assessments of the gaps in current services and referrals for women with disabilities, and design a contingency plan with relevant preparedness activities and community initiatives. GAP ASSESSMENT Homes in Gaza destroyed by the conflict.Photo: Anas al Baba/Oxfam The civil society researchers who had been trained in action research methods under Phase I of WWS carried out a study to (i) better understand why, during emergencies, the needs of women with disabilities were not directly being met, and (ii) to understand the gaps between the two sectors that were to form the coalition: of women’s rights organizations , and organizations for people with disability (PWD). It identified the available resources and conducted an analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the two sectors to develop initiatives, establish future priorities and identify opportunities to help increase participation of women with disabilities. It assessed and communicated to the coalition each party’s  scope of work, before making recommendations to address the gaps in the coalitio n’s capabilities. In addition to the outcomes of the community workshops, the researchers met extensively with women with
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