The Arab Women's Committee was founded in Jerusalem in 1934. This was a charitable society at the outset, but soon took on a political nature in 1936 during the general strike.
It founders included Margot Canaan, Badra Canaan
It replaced the Arab Women's Executive which had been founded in 1929. Indeed, it seems that, until 1938, there was one major women's organization in Jerusalem that operated under several different names; it began with the nucleus of the Women's Executive Committee, which then transformed into a broader organization, still dominated, however, by the more prominent members of the Executive. Some writers use a deliberately generic name, the Arab Women's Association or AWA, to refer to all these pre-1938 organizations.
The organization subsequently split into two: the AWA and the Arab Women's Union, which emerged sometime after the convening of the Eastern Women's Conference on the Palestine problem, in Cairo in 1938. The AWA continued its work as a charitable association in Jerusalem after 1948.
The impetus for the split was political factionalism, resulting in the Arab Women's Union becoming allied with the Husseini faction, while the Arab Women's Association allied with the Nashashibi faction. There was competition between Zlikha Shihabi and Zahiya Nashashibi over the presidency of the AWA, which also contributed to the split. According to the Palestinian Encyclopedia, most of the AWA branches transformed into women's union, while the Jerusalem branch stayed under its first name and worked alongside the women's unions. Different accounts suggest that from the time of the split, the Arab Women's Union, subsequently headed by Zlikha Shihabi, tended to be a more political organization, while the Arab Women's Association focused primarily on charity. The women whom Ellen Fleischman interviewed were still reluctant more than fifty years later to talk about the split; Fleischman says that one woman commented that the two groups had "mutual respect" that she found press accounts of their joining forces in united action.