Born in 1941 in Gaza City, Al-Wazir is a widow with
Minister of Social Welfare
B.A. in History, Damascus University, Syria
A long-time figure in Palestinian politics, Um Jihad
joined the Fatah party
in 1959, becoming the partys first female member. She participated
in the first conference for Palestinian women in 1965 and was instrumental
in founding the General Union for Palestinian Women, an organization
that focuses on the social, economic and legal status of Palestinian
Her interest in social affairs prompted her to found
numerous centers for women, literacy training and rehabilitation including
the Social Affairs Committee and the Martyrs Families Organization
and the Committee for Prisoners and the Injured. Currently, Um Jihad
is the director of a number of committees focusing on women, the elderly
and care for the disabled.
Um Jihad has been a member of the PNC since 1974 and
a member of the Fatah Central Committee since 1987. From 1980 to 1985,
Um Jihad was the Secretary-General of the General Union of Palestinian
Women. In 1983, she served as the Deputy Secretary-General of the Fatah
Um Jihad lived in exile for thirty years with her
husband, Khalil al-Wazir (Abu
Jihad), the co-founder of the Fatah party, and leader of the first
Palestinian uprising. In 1988, he was assassinated by Israel in his
home in Tunisia.
After her husband's death in 1988, she became a member
of the PLO Executive Committee.
She served as Chair of the PLO's Social Welfare Institute and the Families
of Martyrs foundation.
Um Jihad returned to the Gaza
Strip in 1995. The following year she was elected to the Palestinian
Legislative Council, representing Gaza City for Fatah.. Since 1995,
she has served as the Minister of Social Affairs. In 2003, she was nominated
as the Minister of Social Affairs in the new Palestinian Authority Cabinet.
Al-Wazir is one of, if not the most, prominent women
in the Palestinian territories. Her nom de guerre is Um Jihad, which
translates to "mother of the fight" and exemplifies her persona
to the Palestinian people, as their mother in the struggle against Israeli
Al-Wazir is one of the remaining female members of
the "old guard". Her husband was a close associate of Arafat
and she remains a close political ally.
In recent negotiations on the formation of the April
2003 Palestinian Cabinet under Prime Minister Abu
Mazen, Arafat succeeded in securing the Minister of Social Affairs
for Um Jihad, although Prime Minister Abu Mazen did not plan to include
her in his cabinet.
Abu Mazen may not have wanted to include Um Jihad,
as she is spoken of by the Palestinians, because she represents the
freedom fighters and martyr's methods for attaining independence from
Israel. She is often quoted in the press and at the United
Nations for blaming Israel for many of the ills that plague Palestinian
society. She has been quoted as not a proponent of compromise in order
to attain Palestinian statehood.
Media Center; al-bab.org; MiddleEastReference.org.uk; CBC.ca; palestineremembered.com;
oneworld.org; nyhumanities.org; zccf.org.ae, (May 21, 2002); unhchr.ch.hurricaine;
operationsick.com, (September 25, 2001)