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B.C. woman returns with 'terrible' stories from Gaza


A donkey wanders through a mirror image of a ghetto, carrying a family's salvaged belongings in a war-torn area of Gaza, Palestine. This is one of the images Joanna Zilsel, a woman from Gibsons, B.C., describes from a cafe in Gaza.

Zilsel, 56, is one of six Canadians among the 58 women who make up the CODEPINK delegation.

The Gender Initiative of the United Nations' Relief and Works Agency, a program dedicated to promoting the rights of girls and women in the Gaza Strip, invited the delegates to the region.

"There's not a woman there who didn't have a terrible story," she said of a visit to the women's centre in the middle of Gaza.

The CODEPINK delegates met with social-service organizations and delivered more than 1,000 gift baskets to women in Gaza for International Women's Day March 8. Their visit is scheduled to end today.

When Zilsel returns, she wants to correct the perception that Palestinians are terrorists.

She says they are everyday people trying to rebuild after Israeli attacks turned the area into a war zone two months ago.

Zilsel has a master's degree in molecular genetics and does hands-on environmental work involving sustainable building, solar water heating and electric vehicle conversions.

Formed in 2002, CODEPINK is a women-based peace and social justice movement that has been working to end wars and redirect resources to healthcare and education in the U.S.