By Monica Awad
Aqaba, West Bank, 10 August 2012 – Gathered around a table, 14-year-old Majd Dabak and several adolescent girls are busy completing an intricate piece of artwork using the coloured wedges of broken floor tiles.
“This piece of art represents our lifestyle. We live under constant threat of settler violence, and our houses risk being demolished. Despite the stress, we are determined to make our society better,” said Majd.
Nestled at the edge of the Jordan valley, Aqaba village lies between two military bases. Located in Area ‘C’ of the West, which is under Israeli administrative and security control, the village has received several demolition orders for structures built without a permit from the Israeli Civil Administration. As it is nearly impossible for Palestinians to obtain building permits in Area ‘C’, many families feel they have no choice but to build without one. Earlier this year, Israeli Security Forces demolished two road segments linking Aqaba to surrounding villages, affecting the access of 300 people, including 60 students, to nearby basic health and education services.
An escape from the violence
For adolescents growing up in the village, nothing is more important than being able to escape the stress of a daily life marked by settler violence, threats of displacement, poverty and sometimes, domestic violence.
UNICEF, with funds from the Japanese Government, provides adolescents with friendly spaces where they are safe from any form of violence. They attend recreational activities and are equipped with crucial life skills. Eighty adolescent-friendly spaces are supported across the Occupied Palestinian Territory, often benefiting the most marginalized communities.
“We believe that investing in childhood is the essence of building a nation,” said Naofumi Hashimoto, Japan’s Representative to the Palestinian Authority. “UNICEF has a lot of experience in this field, which is why we look forward to continuing our joint cooperation in the best interest of children,” he said.
Celebrating ‘International Youth Year’
This month, Palestinian adolescents came together to celebrate ‘International Youth Year’ and found ways of turning the theme, “Building a Better World”, into reality. They were actively engaged in various activities to improve their surroundings. For 17-year-old Karmel Rimawi, this entailed cleaning his village. “With my friends, we decided to clean our village and teach younger children how to keep it clean,” said Karmel.
Sixteen-year-old Zahran Mohamed believes sports strengthen communal ties. “Football is entertaining, and it also teaches us how to build a team to achieve more goals in life,” he explained.
For Majd Dabak and her friends, developing skills is the first step to building a better society. “At this center, we learn communication skills, arts, drama, and sports,” she said. "This is not only interesting, but also helps us better understand our rights and strengthen our community.”
“We equip adolescents with tools to cope with the challenges they will face in life, so they can make their way in the world, said UNICEF oPt Special Representative Jean Gough. “Building adolescents’ confidence and helping them improve their lives is the first step in the process of making our world a better world.”