How ladies constructed a library within the Gaza Strip

How ladies constructed a library within the Gaza Strip

In Gaza, UNICEF staffer Mohammed Abu Sulaiman describes how, within the midst of hopelessness, a bunch of decided Palestinian ladies are unlocking their future, one guide at a time.


By Mohammed Abu Sulaiman, with Chris Niles

© UNICEF State of Palestine/2017
A lady at Sokaina Ladies College in Gaza paints a crate for use as a bookshelf. She and her classmates turned an empty classroom right into a library utilizing discovered wood crates, previous tyres and donated books.

DEIR AL BALAH CITY, State of Palestine, 18 December 2017 – There are a million youngsters in Gaza, but hardly any sports activities fields or playgrounds. And this lack of secure outdoors play areas particularly impacts ladies. The seaside is principally off limits, with horrible sewage air pollution. Youth unemployment is over 60 per cent.

In recent times, we have now seen younger folks flip to medicine, an issue that didn’t exist earlier than. And each younger particular person I discuss to feels the isolation of our closed borders. They wish to be a part of the world to study and share concepts.

Gaza can really feel hopeless at occasions, however a bunch of schoolgirls have constructed one thing really thrilling.

Sokaina Ladies College is in Deir al Balah Metropolis, in the midst of the Gaza Strip. ‘Deir al Balah’ means ‘Monastery of Palms’. There was hundreds of palm timber within the space, however immediately few stay. Now, town homes a number of refugee camps. Some 25,000 refugees stay in Deir al Balah camp.

The women of the Sokaina faculty determined they wished a library. Most faculties in Gaza don’t have one. And people who do normally have a restricted vary of books.
The scholars knew that it wouldn’t be straightforward – they’d be difficult social attitudes about what ladies can do – however they wished to show that they may create a ravishing library inside their faculty.

A library is born

UNICEF gave the ladies seed funding of US$300, they usually went to the market to purchase books. They’d by no means been to the market earlier than. Day-after-day they’d journey solely between dwelling and faculty.

“It’s uncommon in Gaza for adolescent females to go to the market alone and accumulate packing containers and work together with shopkeepers,” stated Marah, one of many 40 college students who collected books and constructed the library.

Sadly, after they obtained there, the ladies realized that US$300 would purchase barely 30 books and would go away nothing for cabinets and seats.

They got here up with one other resolution. In an empty classroom, they constructed cabinets from wood packing containers and seats from previous tyres. Then they requested a number of NGOs for donations and obtained 500 books. Early this yr, their library was born.

Immediately, the library at Sokaina faculty is open six days every week for all college students. Sokaina, like most colleges in Gaza, operates double shifts of courses to make up for a shortfall of 232 colleges. The Schooling Ministry has supported the ladies’ initiative by offering tables, chairs and extra books. And the ladies have organized a committee to handle the library and preserve including to their assortment.

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF State of Palestine/2017
A lady stands within the almost accomplished library on the Sokaina Ladies College. The women have been impressed to create the library whereas taking part in a UNICEF programme that inspired them to brainstorm initiatives that will enhance their lives.

A private story

This can be a private story for me, as a result of UNICEF and books helped me flip my life round after I was a teen.

I grew up in a really poor neighbourhood and left major faculty with 51 stitches in my head from 17 altercations. Violence was by no means far-off. Generally I used to be the difficulty maker and typically I used to be the sufferer – the place I lived, you needed to defend your self.

My life modified after I was 15 and began secondary faculty. For one factor, it was the primary time I’d met ladies nose to nose. I used to be additionally rescued as a result of I went to an adolescent-friendly area the place I met educated individuals who have been studying Marx and Dostoyevsky. When any person requested me the title of final guide I had learn, I didn’t have a solution.

So I started studying on daily basis and each night time. After six months, I began to precise my opinions and concepts, and it was an incredible second – folks smiled and loved what I used to be saying and I began to construct my confidence. Seven years later, I began working for UNICEF, which was a dream for me.

And studying did all of it. Whenever you learn, you understand extra, and also you suppose extra deeply. It’s particularly necessary in Gaza, the place we’re reduce off from the world. The place can younger folks get their concepts from? The specter of violence isn’t far-off. However a guide can change minds and beliefs.

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF State of Palestine/2017
The women hand painted the entire supplies that have been used as cabinets within the library. In Gaza, faculty libraries are fairly uncommon. The scholars knew that they’d be difficult social attitudes about what ladies can do.

Studying is the idea of selection

I used to be one of many fortunate ones given the chance to develop my concepts and expertise and make knowledgeable selections. However the overwhelming majority of the greater than 430,000 adolescents in Gaza don’t have this chance. By supporting younger folks to dream and put their concepts into motion, we assist them preserve hope alive.

The mission the ladies pulled collectively is a component of a bigger programme serving to carry hope to adolescents. In 2016, UNICEF started a mission in 11 colleges involving 1,200 highschool college students aged 14–16. UNICEF has educated college students in expertise comparable to communication, vital considering, creativity, motion analysis, management and civic engagement. We’ve got inspired them to brainstorm initiatives that will enhance their lives.

Partaking within the mission, the ladies in Sokaina had the braveness to exit and do one thing they’d by no means finished earlier than and to create one thing distinctive. Different younger folks within the programme are developing with completely different initiatives. In Gaza, we have now hundreds of adolescents with hundreds of concepts.

“It’s actually an incredible programme, I discovered that nothing is unimaginable, and that I can problem and win. I simply must suppose, plan, advocate,” stated 15-year-old Haya Al Kurdi. “This expertise taught me that I could be who I dream to be.”

It’s extra necessary than ever to permit extra younger folks in Gaza to guide, study, and have the chance to develop their minds and put their nice concepts into follow. Generally in Gaza we could be good at telling folks what to do and what to not do. However if you create a library and also you give folks the possibility to learn two sides of an argument, you might have a selection about what to suppose. Studying is the idea of that selection.

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF State of Palestine/2017
A few of the ladies paint a mural on the wall of the brand new library. In Gaza, there are only a few secure areas for youngsters to play, particularly ladies.

Close to unlivable

Within the State of Palestine, UNICEF helps 18,000 deprived adolescents develop their expertise by way of life expertise, civic engagement, sports activities and entrepreneurial initiatives. The library initiative is a UNICEF mission applied in partnership with Al Nayzak Group for Supportive Schooling and Scientific Innovation and was funded by Al Fakhoora, a programme of the Schooling Above All basis supported by the Qatar Fund for Improvement.

Nonetheless, the setting of Gaza is deteriorating to such an extent that the United Nations believes it could possibly be unlivable by 2020. We stay trapped in such a small space – about 45 km lengthy and between 6 to 14 km vast. It’s been 10 years since folks and items might transfer freely out and in. We’ve got lived by way of three wars in that point. Water is scarce, however the wants and the air pollution are big, which suggests our water aquifer is being depleted at a fee that’s inflicting irreparable harm. Electrical energy cuts of as much as 20 hours a day imply that uncooked sewage is pumped into the ocean and the stench fills complete neighbourhoods. Persons are poor, and this grinding poverty simply retains getting worse. Mother and father stay everyday attempting to maintain hope alive for his or her youngsters, however fearful they will be unable to maintain going.

I discussed that Gaza could possibly be unlivable by 2020. However I don’t consider it’s solely environmental. It’s additionally the mentality of individuals, the sluggish grinding lack of hope as they see every day issues getting a bit of bit worse. Everybody wants hope, particularly younger folks. If hope dies, in anyplace, then there may be at all times the chance of younger folks turning to dangerous behaviour and even violence.

Mohammed Abu Sulaiman is the Adolescents Improvement and Participation programme officer with UNICEF Gaza.

>> Learn subsequent: Gaza youngsters face acute water and sanitation disaster

 

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