Students for Justice in Palestine hosted Rana Sharif, a gender studies professor at Loyola Marymount University and an activist for the conflict in Palestine, for a discussion about the current state of Palestine and how a major issue of concern for the future of the country lies within the topic of creating women’s rights.
Sharif is a member of the Southern California Palestinian American Women’s Association, which seeks to empower the lives of Arab-American women and children.
Her talk was part of the USC Palestine Awareness Week that takes place every spring.
Nashwah Akhtar, a second-year graduate student of public diplomacy and the organizer for the event, explained her motives for inviting Sharif to come and speak to USC students.
“Both are human rights issues that need to be addressed and as a student I try to find any avenue I can to be an activist and supporter for the marginalized,” she said.
During the talk, Sharif focused on organizing movements that have emerged in Palestine from 1920 to the present. She divided the time frame in three by addressing the different types of women’s movements that have emerged in the past few decades.
Sharif specifically addressed the movements that occurred during the British Mandate period.
“During this period, women organized themselves formally starting organizations such as the Arab Women’s Union,” Sharif said. “They also worked alongside their male counterparts, participated in demonstrations and delivered speeches to the British government.”
She then described the period after 1948 when the nation state was established. Sharif described how women retreated and established organizations such as the Arab Child Welfare House and the Red Crescent Society.
Today, Sharif says that women’s activism has moved to utilize more advanced forms of technology.
“Internet offers women a rejuvenated way to engage in activism,” she said.
During the discussion, various topics regarding women’s issues in Palestine were addressed. Students discussed the difficulty of transportation within Palestine and how it affects women’s health.
“Women are denied access to hospitals at Israeli checkpoints and are forced to give birth at checkpoints, often at the expense of both their lives and their newborns’ lives,” Akhtar said.
John-Peter Jupiter, a sophomore majoring in critical studies, expressed why he considered this issue important to him.
“It’s important to be involved because of the general sense of ‘let’s not talk about it’ and because of USC’s interest in settlements,” he said.
After the event was over, many students stayed to engage in personal conversations.
Akhtar said that she was content with the outcome of the talk.
“I’m really happy about how the talk went and … about the discussion that resulted afterwards,” she said.
Sharif encouraged students to participate in Palestine awareness events.
“Palestine is such a hot topic that the only way for students to feel comfortable is for them to attend events like these or the events of Palestine Awareness Week that allow for conversations like these,” she said.
She closed the event by explaining that the discussion period fostered a time for students to bring up their concerns and to address controversial topics in a respectful manner.
“Our discussion was probably the best, probably even better than the conversation. Conversations like these allow students to bring up their issues and concerns and whatever questions they might have and then have a cognizant conversation where we can create a community where all of our differences can be respected,” Sharif said.