The work of the WCLAC has nevertheless been met with hostility from within Palestinian society, Siniora says. In recent years, the WCLAC’s priority has been passing the Family Protection Bill. The bill addresses many social issues that affect the West Bank’s most vulnerable, including the legal age for marriage, gender inequality in inheritance, divorce, gender-based violence, and domestic violence. Upon submitting the bill for ratification, Siniora and her colleagues were subject to a barrage of online abuse, with critics saying the bill promoted Western values and was not aligned with Palestinian culture and Islamic law.
“There was a huge counter-campaign on social media attacking feminist and women organizations,” Siniora says. “They said we’re calling for the destruction of the family and that we’re bringing Western ideals to Palestinian society.”
The PA used that campaign to argue that the Family Protection Bill was too controversial and required more debate and discussion, thus stalling its progression. “So we see some regression and serious attacks against feminist and women’s rights defenders in Palestinian society,” Siniora says.
But Siniora has dedicated her life to advocate for Palestinian women’s rights, and she doesn’t plan to back down. “I began when I was in my twenties, and now I am in my early sixties,” she says. “So it is frustrating, but I feel like we have made some changes. We have to keep up our energy, and always have hope.”
Hope is at the core of the WCLAC and the women it serves, and despite the many setbacks, it has achieved a lot. It has set up shelters for women across the West Bank, developed a maintenance fund for families in need, initiated family protection units within the Palestinian police, drafted the Family Protection Bill, and helped thousands of women out of unthinkable situations. “The minimum is that we help the individual person,” Siniora says. “When a woman comes into our office with a box of sweets or chocolates because we’ve been able to help her and protect her life, and now she is safe—this, for us, is success.”