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50 Years of Occupation: Palestinian women speak up for change

Friday, June 2, 2017 - 14:56

Between economic hardship, shrinking political space and living under military occupation, Palestinian youth are struggling to engage with politics. ActionAid is working with young women and men to support them to understand and engage with issues concerning their rights and futures to drive positive change in the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt).

Levels of political participation among youth are alarmingly low in the oPt; studies show that some 70% of young Palestinians are politically inactive.

Despite forming 30% of the population, youth in Palestine have limited say in the decisions that affect their lives, despite their high potential to be active agents for change.

Between the threat of the Israeli military and struggling to make a living and support their families, life in the West Bank is hardly conducive to democratic participation. Many youth do not trust the current political system, which is rife with internal divisions.

Fifty years of living under occupation has rendered Palestinian youth less interested and often indifferent about their fragile political situation.

In occupied Palestinian territories, ActionAid is working with women and youth, supporting them to understand their rights and to raise their collective voice to claim them. One project – implemented in collaboration with with our national partner Masarat - aims to help young women and men to generate alternative ideas for a political system that can meet their aspirations.

We need to make our voices heard.

Tahani, a 26-year-old woman from Hebron and one of the project’s participants thinks it’s important that young people are involved in politics.

File 37562Tahani, 26, is raising her voice. (Photo: ActionAid)

“We need to be politically active to try to change the miserable situation; things are getting worse but we need it [political activism] to deliver our messages and make our voices heard”.

Qamar, 27, a fellow participant agrees that it is particularly important that people are aware of their rights and the politics around them.

“There are different types of political participation; the Palestinian people are all knowledgeable in different ways and at different levels. I believe that as people living under occupation, we should have a level of political awareness and knowledge of the occupier”.

Qamar explains, however, that most other youth do not share her enthusiasm for various reasons.

“When it comes to my social circle. I feel they have neither national nor political sense and I believe it is because of the difficult economic situation, the unwillingness to be affiliated with a political party and of course fear of persecution.”

Tahani adds that Palestinian culture and social pressure makes it hard to speak out and stand up for change.

“The social pressure is unbearable when it comes to political participation. We are expected to follow a certain path and that makes it even harder to push for change.”

Patriarchal social structures and ideas also endure that repress opportunities for women to participate in public life.

“There is also a cultural element to it - for instance, the view that women should not be involved politically,” explains Qamar, who is determined to change this for future generations.

In 2016, ActionAid established women’s groups and trained 85 women as community leaders to raise awareness and campaign for their rights in oPt.

ActionAid is standing with young women who are driving change in their communities.

“The Palestinian youth are strong and resilient, they have endured a great deal but they are still filled with hopes and power and they show that repeatedly,” says ActionAid Youth Project Officer Mai Alqaisi. 

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