1325 PeaceWomen
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“As a woman, as a mother whose children are growing up in violent environment, I believe that peace is not an option, it is a must. But peace needs justice to make it happen”

Rana Zaqout was Born in Nables, lived her early youthful years in the city of Jenin where she finished her high school education. Studied sociology at Bir Zeit University in Ramallah, and later moved to Gaza in 1988 after she got married to a Gazan. Rana has three children.

Between 1982 and 1993, Rana was an active member of the youth and women groups advocating for Palestinian national rights under occupation. Currently, she serves as Coordination Officer at UNSCO (Office of the UN Special Coordinator and Special Representative of the UN Secretary General to the Middle East Peace Process). Her duties require close interaction with the Palestinian National Authority and the international community, and is focused on coordinating assistance to the Palestinian people, and working closely on humanitarian interventions related to Gaza. Rana has been directly involved and responsible for coordinating the United Nations response to the Gaza humanitarian crisis since 2000 until now.
Unknown soldiers are not only those who sacrifice their lives for others, but also those who struggle everyday to make a change; those who fight daily constant battles against injustice and towards peace; without guns, without bombs, without armies. Those who have chosen to replace their personal dreams with national visions.

Skinny elegant young woman, with sharply smart eyes and endless energy. Restless.
"We are trying to get spare parts into Gaza for the electricity generating station that was bombed", she calls and says. "I will be in Gaza for couple of hours for some meetings, can we have quick lunch together?". Always running from one place to another, her cell phone does not stop ringing, leaving less time for meeting friends, and even lesser time for having lunch.

As a result to her political activities, in 1987 Rana was put under town-arrest in Jenin for six months, followed by an administrative detention for six other months in Israeli jails. During that time she developed diabetes, which have had many consequences on her personal life, and that of her family. This experience, she says, made her even stronger, and yet more determined not just to advocate for peace, but to be actively involved in the peace process.

"All through my life I've being witnessing people being killed, families being forced to live apart because of the occupation. I see the fear in my children's' eyes and pray to have enough strength to hide my own fear, to be able to comfort them and to make them feel safe. I watched millions of Palestinians living on humanitarian aid not only because they are poor but also because they have no access to work even when they are qualified enough and capable to perform a good job. I witnessed us being humiliated for being Palestinians living under occupation".

"I saw the new Palestinian generation so desperate to leave their homeland looking for better life abroad, because in such an environment they simply have no life...no future".

Rana's work for peace is not conventional. She advocates for peace in every activity she does, through handling coordination tasks between donor community and the Palestinian Authority, which was established as one of the results of the Oslo peace process.

"The past decades of violence and counter-violence between both sides could not, and would not, bring a solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict; rather it is bringing yet more bloodshed and more losses in human lives and dignity. The violence and losses of beloved ones in both sides deepened the gap between both nations who are compelled to live together, share the same land and same resources. My role, and that of my husband, is to contribute to building a strong Palestinian institution that is capable of carrying out its duties in a way that strengthen its role in the peace process, and in putting strong foundation for the future Palestinian state".

"Our children deserve better life than the one they are living now; they deserve access to playgrounds not to check points. They deserve to read a book that would empower their knowledge not to read about the ongoing conflict  that deprive them from hope for better future. Our children and we deserve that we spend our days in serving and building our own independent State.  As for us, the older people, we deserve to see a peace agreement that would vanish the memories we have about conflict and violence, and to live a decent life with what remains of our days".

Rana's believe in peace is derived from her intolerance to injustice, and her determination that injustice should not last forever. "The world's failure to reach a just peace in the middle east will only generate more violence". Rana's strength also comes along with that of the Palestinian people, who struggle daily for their lives in the absence of basis human needs, particularly in Gaza. "My strength comes from my faith in my Palestinian people who, regardless of 60 years of living under occupation, never gave up on our cause, and from the new Palestinian generations, who regardless the endless challenges they face every minute, still carry the Palestinian cause in their hearts and minds".