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UNFPA official creates 'One-Meter Challenge' in support of Palestinian women

Dec. 13, 2018 6:15 P.M. (Updated: Dec. 14, 2018 4:36 P.M.)
By: Jennifer Janineh
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Anders Thomsen, a representative of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), who had organized the "One-Meter Challenge'' during the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence campaign talked to Ma’an about the message he is sending through the challenge.

The “One-Meter Challenge” focused on how many Palestinian women are subjected to gender-based violence, which amounted to 294,000 women, according to a survey conducted by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS).

Thomsen, along with his friend, Marcin Pius, organized a 294-kilometer-long bike ride, which represented one meter for every woman, who survived gender-based violence in Palestine.

The challenge took place on the last four days of the 16-day campaign from 6 a.m. until 5 p.m.

Thomsen said that the challenge “makes sure that when we talk about gender-based violence that people know that Huda, Rima, Seema, Majd, and Salwa, are real and have names. They are not numbers.”

He stressed, “It’s 294,000 women who are in need of help, who are subjected to violence, and nobody can ever remember that number. So if we did a bike ride for each woman, each survivor, if all of them stood one meter apart and were holding hands, they could form a human chain, which would be as long as the ride we did.”

“We need to take a more personalized human look on this issue.”
The story continues below...

The challenge followed Masar Ibrahim al-Khalil hiking trail, starting from Dura, in southern Hebron, through Bethlehem, Jericho, Taybeh, Kafr Malik, Duma, Nablus City, Sabastiya, ending at the Palestinian Medical Relief Society (PMRS) clinic, which handles gender-based violence cases, in Meithalun, in the northern West Bank.

After ending the challenge on December 10th, both Thomsen and Pius headed from Meithalun to Ramallah City to attend the closing event of the 16-day campaign.

This challenge was the first of its kind for Thomsen to organize and participate in, “Yes, it is something completely out of the ordinary, to bike through the beautiful, powerful nature of Palestine and to be with the people.”

“There was also that motivation to show solidarity with Palestine, with the Palestinian people, and doing something that is very physically demanding, as a way to show our “Palestinian sumud (resilience).”

Thomsen mentioned that him and Pius always talked about biking through the West Bank and decided to finally make it happen, “We did it for a cause, we wanted to make a statement, a different way that people would never forget the number 294,000 to know that these are individual women that need help.”

When asked if he would organize this challenge annually, “It can be localized next year.”

“For example, if you take one village, such as Beit Imrin in Nablus, let’s say there is an estimate of 3,000 women who were subjected to violence, then that amounts to 3,000 meters. It would be great if each villager would do a three-kilometer bike ride, wearing an orange shirt, to make a statement.”

Although Thomsen emphasized how physically demanding and challenging the bike ride was, such as getting stuck in the mud repeatedly and riding with a broken bike chain, he still wished “everyone could have the opportunity to ride through all of West Bank and experience the beauty, the diversity, and the friendliness in the very poor, tough, and rural areas.”

Referring to the friendliness, Thomsen also mentioned how welcoming and supportive Palestinian people were during the entire challenge.

Concluding the interview, Thomsen sent a message to the men regarding Palestinian women subjected to gender-based violence, “Lay off, back off, and stop the violence.”

To watch Thomsen's "One-Meter Challenge" video, click on the link here.

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