With support from the Canada Fund, Shiam organization finalized the project for the economic and social integration of women with disabilities under the slogan “My Right to Participate.” The closing ceremony was held at the main headquarters of Bank of Palestine in Ramallah in the presence of His Excellency Dr. Sabri Seidam, the Minister of Education and Higher Education; His Excellency Mr. Musa Shakarneh, the President of the Water and Land Authority; Mr. Daoud Al Deek, the Secretary of the Ministry of Social Development; representatives from the Ministry of Labor, the Ministry of Planning, the Ministry of Transportation, and the Ministry of Women; Mr. Douglas Scott Proudfoot, the Representative of Canada to the Palestinian Authority; Mrs. Lana Abu Hijleh, the Regional Director of Global Communities and the Co-Founder and Chairman of Shiam; Mr. Rushdi Ghalayini, the General Director of Bank of Palestine; and several prominent figures and representatives from the private and public sectors and international organizations. the project was implemented with support from Global Communities, in partnership with Stars of Hope, Baytouna Organization and Bank of Palestine.

This ceremony bears the fruits of six months of hard work, which aimed to raise awareness about the many and different difficulties and challenges confronted by women with disabilities, highlight them from different angles, and seek effective means and methods to overcome them, and identify applicable solutions within the framework of the current social and economic situation.

In her opening speech, Mrs. Lana Abu Hijleh stressed the role of Palestinian youth in effecting positive change within society in terms of employing their capacities, making significant contributions, adopting a participative approach in serving their community, and their ability to gather civil society, the private and public sectors and international donors under one vision and common objectives. “The idea was to provide creative women the opportunity to identify the obstacles that prevent their complete participation in social life and economic development, and present everything they need from applicable policies and support services to decision and national and local policy makers, service providers and business owners, to enable them to have complete, effective and equal participation in all fields of life,” stated Abu Hijleh.

Dr. Sabri Seidam, the Minister of Education and Higher Education, delivered a message of love and pride to those who strive to challenge their disabilities, considering them an important sector in Palestinian society, and called upon all national and civil society organizations to intensify their efforts and respond to their needs. Dr. Seidam pointed out the wide space provided by the ministry for motivated persons through employment opportunities and increasing the number of resource rooms within schools that work with people with disabilities. He praised all the partners who contributed to this project, including Shiam, and also praised the social responsibility of Bank of Palestine. “I await the recommendations and outputs of “My Right to Participate” so as to incorporate them in a clear work plan and transform these visions into clear steps to be adopted and implemented,” he added.

More than 200 women and girls with disabilities participated in several activities and events, which included six roundtable meetings held in Ramallah, Hebron, Bethlehem, Nablus, Jenin and Gaza, followed by three days of the Hackathon, whereby 45 women worked nonstop to come up with 12 initiatives that were supervised and judged by a jury, which consisted of Mrs. Lana Abu Hijleh, the Regional Director of Global Communities and the Co-Founder and Chairman of Shiam; Mrs. Randa Mousa, the Director of Human Resource Management at Bank of Palestine; Mrs. Dua’a Wadi, the Executive Director of the Businesswomen Forum; and Mr. Firas Jaber, Researcher at the Social and Economic Policies Monitor (Al-Marsad), who will evaluate the initiatives presented at the Hackathon. A total of four initiatives succeeded in providing realistic solutions that respond to the issues that were proposed.

Mr. Daoud Al Deek, the Secretary of the Ministry of Social Development, stated that poverty and unemployment continue to be the two most challenging issues confronted by the Palestinian people, due to the absence of social justice, the monopolization of opportunities and the maldistribution of resources. Al Deek insisted that the ministry is integrating marginalized groups within the framework of a clear vision: “we are part of the solution and not the problem.” He also pointed out to changing the name of the ministry to become the Ministry of Social Development in order to reflect a new approach to thinking and working with all marginalized groups.

The Canadian Representative, Mr. Proudfoot, expressed Canada’s support for Palestinians to build a democratic state based on a two-state solution. He stated that “a successful country is one that is committed to assisting all its citizens to attain their complete rights.” “Through this project, the Canadian government is supporting women with disabilities because we believe that they are as able and capable as any other person, and should be completely integrated into society,” he added. In his final statement, Proudfoot said “Canada believes that promoting gender equality and empowering women and girls is the most effective method to combat poverty and build a more peaceful, holistic and flourishing world.” Proudfoot expressed his gratitude to Shiam, Global Communities, Stars of Hope, Baytuna and Bank of Palestine.

Mrs. Safiya Khalid gave a brief background on Stars of Hope organization, which is considered the only society in Palestine that is run by and works for the sake of women with disabilities. Stars of Hope seeks to identify and activate policies that protect the rights of women and girls with disabilities and promotes the concept of equal opportunities in education, employment and all fields, and put an end to discrimination on the basis of disability and gender-based discrimination. 

Mr. Abdul Rahman Muza’anen from Gaza presented the activities implemented by Baytuna society, which predominantly provides its services to persons with disabilities, who are also involved in the society’s general assembly and board of directors. He stated that during the latest elections, two women with disabilities won seats in the new board of directors and had the honor of participating in this project.

Mr. Rushdi Ghalayini, the General Director of Bank of Palestine, expressed his enthusiasm towards the bank’s contribution to the success of the first Hackathon and the empowerment of women with disabilities in partnership with Shiam and partners from the local and international community. Ghalayini added that “the bank’s interest in Palestinian women is not something new, as it forms part of its strategy to promote their role and empower them to participate effectively on the social and economic levels.” He also stated that the bank was proud to host the sessions and meetings that were held in the various cities, and contribute to honoring the participants, “a testimony to sustainable humanitarian principles keen on maintaining an effective society,” he added. It is important to mention that Bank of Palestine provided a prize of $200 to each of the winners that whose initiatives were chosen at the Hackathon finals. 

The four winning initiatives:

First place went to Sal7ha (Make it better) initiative, which focused on improving assistance tools for people with disabilities. The other three winning initiatives included one entitled “Our dignity is in our will,” which focused on the right of access to transportation; “Stand with us,” which entailed the creation of a unified dictionary for translating sign language; and “I can” initiative to respond to the needs of people with hearing impairment at the Indonesian Hospital.