home contact sitemap
background research material related activities keeping up-to-date
Home  >> Research Papers >> Engendering Compensation >> Executive Summary  
Research Material
Research Projects
Research Papers
Articles and Research Papers
  Newsletters and Opinion Surveys
Videos and Documentaries
Internet Resources

Engendering Compensation: Making Refugee Women Count!

Prepared for the Expert and Advisory Services Fund International Development Research Centre

by Nahla Abdo

March 2000 - Ottawa

Executive Summary
Engendering the compensation process, the focus of this paper, is an attempt not only to reduce existing gender inequalities among Palestinian refugees, but also to ensure a more visible role for Palestinian women in the compensation process. Scenarios for compensation built around property and material conditions alone overlook the Palestinian women refugees’ experience. Engendering refugee compensation negotiations entails, among other things, the delineation of gender aspects of refugee conditions, experiences and expectations, which in turn can result in a more integrative and inclusive study of refugees.

The concept of gender, this paper argues, must be treated as integral to any approach to refugees, as it penetrates and defines the life experiences, expectations and aspirations of all refugee communities. A gender approach in research and policy decision- making on refugees is needed in order to unmask the differential experiences of women and men. We need gender-based analysis in order to assess the experiences of women’s and men’s different social realities, life expectations and economic circumstances, and to ensure the integration of these differences in accounting for compensation.

Gender-based analysis must be seen as a tool for understanding social processes and for responding with informed and equitable options to the group targeted for compensation. To achieve this, a strategy of mainstreaming gender is adopted with the aim of integrating gender equality concerns into the analyses and formulations of all policies, programs and projects designed for compensating refugees. The paper also calls for the adoption of initiatives to enable men as well as women to formulate and express their views and participate in decision-making processes.

In seeking to establish a gender perspective as a fundamental element for an inclusive approach to discussing refugee compensation, the first part of this paper examines three broad areas:

  1. The significance of gender in comprehending Palestinian refugees;
  2. Gender and compensation from an international perspective;
  3. Engendering the compensation process of the Israeli/Palestinian negotiations.

The paper contends that the current contextualization of compensation is concerned with one major issue, namely the recognition of compensation as just one part of a comprehensive solution to the Palestinian refugee problem and the way in which gender is relevant and necessary in such contextualization. Compensation in this paper is viewed as complementary to and not in lieu of other solutions to the refugee problem, such as repatriation and the right of return.

Compensation negotiations have been viewed as part of a comprehensive resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and as a means of peace-building in the region. Viewed in this broader context, compensation becomes a two-fold process that entails, on the one hand, an understanding and deconstruction of the structures of injustices, violence and inequalities caused during conflict, and on the other, the reconstruction of structures of justice and equality, through material and other forms of redress. It also enables a more comprehensive approach to dealing with refugee issues and opens up the space for gender considerations.

The second part of the paper is concerned with engendering the process of refugee negotiations. Following the recommendations of the Beijing Platform of Action, and as an essential requirement for the maintenance of peace and security and ensuring equitable compensation, the process of negotiation needs to consider an alternative mechanism for its operation; one which ensures equal access and full participation of women in the negotiation process. Women must be encouraged and supported to join the negotiation process at all levels.

Women participants can be entrusted with bringing gender perspectives into the negotiation table as well as implementing them. Women participants can play specific roles such as: information resources; gathering information on the gender-differentiated roles of refugees; gender consultants and overall observers. Employing these different mechanisms are likely to affect existing data, particularly if gender or sex-disaggregated data is to be employed in the various areas of compensation; including calculating individual claims for loss of landed property, education, labour and other forms of entitlements.

Finally, the paper approaches the question of Palestinian women’s compensation, by engendering the compensation modalities espoused within the 1999 PRRN/IDRC report based on the Ottawa Workshop on Compensation.

The paper argues that all ‘modalities’ presented at the PRRN/IDRC Workshop focused on one form of compensation: compensation for material loss of private property, most notably land. All scenarios for compensation (e.g., claimants, formula, mechanism and process) were built around material considerations only. Yet, as will be discussed in this paper, Palestinian women’s refugee experiences include the ‘feminization of poverty’, the loss of educational and labour opportunities. Such experiences cannot be approached or measured in a quantitative manner alone. Special approaches to these experiences will be considered here.

For a more inclusive approach to compensation, this paper elaborates on three different categories of entitlements, reconstructs them from a gender-based approach, and proposes specific recommendations for the compensation for each of these categories.

The key findings of this paper include:

Category 1: Compensation for individual material loss, which includes loss of labour and educational opportunities

  • Palestinian women have experienced refugee status differently than their male counterparts at all levels of the public sphere, by being discriminated against and marginalized in the labour force, in education, in political representation, as well as in the private sphere.

  • A formula of direct payment to claimants is better able to address gender issues.

  • A more reasonable and just formula of just compensation would be to compensate all 1948 Palestinian refugees and their descendants, through a flat per-capita rate payable to individuals. This formula addresses both the gender and class inequalities of Palestinian refugees.

  • For loss of landed and other forms of movable and immovable property, cash payment is a preferred mechanism, rather than payments in kind or in services. This mechanism is particularly important for single women, single-mother families or families dependent on female members for their survival.

  • The integration of third party members having a gender orientation in the process of dispensation of compensation ensures that alternative approaches of qualitative and quantitative data be collected, allowing for the use of gender-disaggregated data, the re-definition of the terms productive and reproductive labour, the inclusion of reproductive labour (domestic and other informal forms of labour), and the issue of gender-based labour exploitation.

Category 2: Compensation for individual moral loss, comprising mental suffering from dispersion, the division of families and the consequent impoverishment of women, torture, ill-treatment, imprisonment and detention of males and females

  • This category can be partly compensated in monetary forms in cases, for example, when time spent in prison is seen as loss in educational and labour opportunities. If this mechanism is chosen as a form of redress, claimants must include women. A gendered claims-based system is to be followed, and the process must be managed through a third party (not Israel or Palestine).

  • By a gendered-based process of distribution or dispensation of compensation we mean the inclusion of women serving as gender experts, resource people, gender consultants and as overall observers to guarantee a gender equitable approach to the process of compensation.

  • Other (non-monetary) forms of compensation, involving services and investment in community development, may prove equally beneficial. Special educational and re-skilling centers along with the development of existing programs dealing with mental health problems, can be encouraged and supported. Women’s sufferings can also be addressed through the development of existing women’s centers or through the establishment of new women’s organizations dealing with mental and psychological problems.

The author would like to acknowledge the assistance of Reem Mashal and Kim Elliott in the preparation of this report.The author would also like to thank Rosemary Sayigh and Rex Brynen for their useful comments on an earlier draft.

previous top next
  Copyright © 2008 PRRN home   contact us   sitemap