What’s stopping young Palestinians from moving forward?
All that young people can do to convince employers to give them a chance is to prove that they have the soft skills and the background necessary to work
Despite living under Israeli occupation, youth work in Palestine has been flourishing over the past few years. Largely fuelled by international organizations making their way into the country, one wonders why local movements don’t also put in an effort to mobilise young Palestinians to take charge of their lives, away from the occupation.
After all, the participation in external peaceful events and organisations can provide an escape from the emotional reality of the occupation, and all the negative impacts it has on everyday life, including the posttraumatic stress disorders brought on by living in a perpetual state of fear.
In a recent report, the four main challenges to youth work in Palestine have been identified to be the dependence on external funding, lack of support from regional officials and strategic vision, as well as the marginalisation of young people. The report, funded by the EU, sheds light on the reality of the challenges facing youth workers and activists, as well as young people in Palestine.
Struggle for mobility
Ultimately, as an outsider who has advised NGOs based in Palestine, the main obstacle faced was the Israeli military’s control over the Palestinian borders, making mobility in and out of the country a struggle.
All that young people can do to convince employers to give them a chance is to prove that they have the soft skills and the background necessary to workYara al-Wazir
Planned events have frequently fallen apart due to political instabilities and denied visa applications. On the ground, the organisers always seemed to blame the occupier. But while it was their faces denying entry to the country and giving our NGOs a hard time, it was the Palestinian government that let it happen.
It’s always easy to point the fingers outside of the border. While it is easy to blame the Israeli military for the inability of young Palestinians to carry out real changes in their communities, or the international arena for not offering enough aid, it is more difficult to question ourselves and our own governments.
Why hasn’t the Palestinian government taken actions to mobilise young people by providing them with adequate tools to start their own companies or NGOs? What does the government do about Israeli forces banning peaceful activists from entering their own organizations’ events, and more importantly, why aren’t young Palestinians mad about it?
It’s a two way street – a culture of discouraging grassroots activism against government exists, especially in a country that has been laced with political warfare for over 60 years. Admittedly, it’s difficult to ask a government to do more, as it seems like it has enough on its plate. The future of any country should be at the forefront of its growth plans.
Putting young people aside and having them at the bottom of the food chain is a form of self-destructive behaviour by both the Palestinian government and Palestinian society. Young people make up 29.8 percent of the population, 41 percent of whom are unemployed. If these young people are not given adequate training and an opportunity to join the workforce, the future of the country is left in the hands of the occupiers.
Of course, all that young people can do to convince employers to give them a chance is to prove that they have the soft skills and the background necessary to work. Before this happens, there must be a culture of trusting young people – trusting them enough to give them a job, and trusting them enough to accept that learning is only a part of the employment cycle.
In order to have the soft skills required in the workforce, young people can take actions into their own hands – participating in peaceful NGOs, campaigns, and organizations can improve their skills, and convince even the toughest employers to give them a chance.
Forget the government and army
Open and free access to information would theoretically mobilise young people to want what is better, but with so many barriers, from political, to economical, to social barriers, it has been difficult to do so.
However, this access to information has also cultivated a culture that is at grips with the Internet.
The Internet allows free access to information, and free access to moving forward in youth work and activism, without the risks that come with crossing borders and checkpoints. The internet has provided young people with an arena that is relatively low cost, safe, and one that can connect both Palestinians on-the-ground, and the displaced refugees.
The ‘Bilbaal’ project puts good people in touch with good causes, allowing NGOs to find interns, nurturing the employment cycle. Farah Chamma turned to Youtube to express herself through artistic poetry. The same tool that was used to organise protests in Tunisia and Egypt, is being used to drive Palestine’s youth forward. The best part about it? Unlike some of its neighbours, the Palestinian government has never publically stood against any forms of social media.
Yara al Wazir is a humanitarian activist. She is the founder of The Green Initiative ME and a developing partner of Sharek Stories. She can be followed and contacted on twitter @YaraWazir
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