We Are Not Numbers closed the Gaza Thinks Initiative On 14 May 2022, organized and led by Menna Hijazi, a fresh graduate of Law from Alazhar University and the Med Dialogue for Rights and Equality Programme leader in Gaza, Palestine.
The Gaza Thinks initiative was held within the Rethink, Reconnect the Med common action as part of the EU-funded regional Programme Med Dialogue for Rights and Equality in partnership with We Are Not Numbers – Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor in Gaza, Palestine.
During the Initiative, participants engaged in several activities, including 3-day workshops on employing critical thinking to combat misinformation, wrong stereotypes, and hate speech while advocating for the Palestinian narrative. In addition, through a participatory approach and focus discussion groups, 16 young men and women researched innovative mechanisms and recommendations to solve the issue in a policy paper format. This activity seeks to support youth participation in the decision and policy-making process and the right of Palestinians to own their narrative while promoting social cohesion and sustainability.
The young participants also visited the Euro-Med Human rights Monitor and the Agence France-Presse (AFP) as part of the Initiative. They learned and exchanged knowledge about the best practices for tackling misinformation, fake news, hate speech, and stereotyping issues in the region from high-profile professionals and leaders in human rights and journalism fields. Finally, they completed an online advocacy and awareness campaign to shed light on the discussed issues, support youth civic engagement, own the narrative, and promote social cohesion and sustainability. Here is the Policy Paper that they produced. Here
As a partner in the making of this initiative, We Are Not Numbers, represented by project manager Enas Fares Ghannam, explained how important such an initiative is for the Palestinian youth, especially the ones in Gaza, who can hardly leave or be able to participate in similar educatory activities.
“At We Are Not Numbers, we care about empowering the minds of the youth and enabling them to be more critical and analytic so they can make decisions based on critical thinking. This initiative came from one of WANN alumna, Menna, so we had two responsibilities, one toward Menna to support her, and the other toward the WANNERs –our young writers- to develop.”
Menna Hijazi, the organizer of the initiative, explained that the aim of writing a policy paper is to investigate the consequences of misinformation on the Palestinian future.
“I aimed to engage young people in the decision and policy-making process. It was challenging to introduce the participants to the raised issue, but I am jubilant about their passion to lead change and own the narrative.”
Watan A. Z. Abuqaoud, one of the participants who joined the initiative, said that she enjoyed the training, which was fun, organized, and educational. “We have written about an issue that is rarely talked about, despite its importance: geographical discrimination and its impacts on Palestinian society. The policy paper is based on various Arabic and English sources and our experience as Palestinians.”
Mohammed W. H. AlAgha, another participant, explained, “The training sessions helped me learn the best practices to deal with misinformation using my critical thinking. I am happy to learn about writing a policy paper as a tool for creating a difference in my community.”
The initiative lasted seven days, from Sunday, 8 May, to Saturday, the 14th, and succeeded in bringing up a group of young people whose minds and thoughts became more open to new experiences.
Med Dialogue for Rights and Equality is a 3-year (2019 – 2022) EU-funded Technical Assistance regional Programme with the overall objective to strengthen the role of CSOs active at the regional scale in building sustainable development, regional cohesion, and social resilience, as well as in influencing policymaking in the Southern Neighbourhood and the Euro-Mediterranean Space. The Programme recalls the importance of civil society as an agent for change, an essential component of democracy, whose participation in public processes and policy dialogues would lead to more inclusive and effective policies, transparency, and accountability.
We Are Not Numbers (WANN), a project of Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor, is a youth-led, Palestinian non-profit project that aims to tell the stories behind the numbers of Palestinians in the news to advocate for their human rights. WANN’s primary goal is to humanize the victims and survivors of violations—to give a voice to those behind the numbers by allowing them to speak directly to the Western world in English.