Life is full of choices, and each choice leads you to yet more choices, like a ladder — every step you take, however big or small, leads you upwards as you become more aware and have more experience.
Since I was sixteen, when I started opening my eyes to my besieged world, I’ve become determined to be a leader in my community and a representative of Palestinian youth. We need to raise our voices to reach the wider world; meet decision makers to talk and ask about our issues; to be asked about the challenges we face ; and to change our lives for the better.
Learning to use my voice
Having a voice first requires using it. Since my interest in being a public speaker and leader grew, it took me years to become a strong girl who never is ashamed of speaking in front of people. However, in my Gaza, there are no opportunities to be taught how to do so — I have had to teach myself. As part of that self-instruction, I have attended discussions and youth circles and then returned, with their lessons, to my family. Throughout this process I’ve learned that I can manage a dialogue, I can speak and my peaceful manner helps to lead to a successful dialogue.
In the last year, after working hard on myself to be a good leader who has a degree of self-confidence and knowledge of civic engagement in my community, I became a member of the Social Development Forum. This was the turning point for me. The Forum gives youth the chance to speak, share and give their opinion. It gives us the hope to change our reality.
The Social Development Forum enabled me to be a part of Youth Summit 2021 as an interlocutor on the issue of “Representation of Youth and Women in Local Bodies.”
Here, after all these years, my dream became true: putting my training into practice. I prepared and presented a fact sheet with specific statistics and factual information about women and youth, their societal participation and their suffering in our community. My presentation was part of a Dialogue and Accountability session with decisionmakers in the Gaza Strip. My research on the issue uncovered frustrating evidence of our tragic reality and indicated a lack of representation of youth and women in local governing bodies.
Using my voice
The day of the Youth Summit came. The responsibility of what lay before me weighed on me. I had to represent the most important parts of our community. I couldn’t know what the reaction of the decisionmakers would be — would they hear me? Would they interrupt me or cut me off? I had no experience to guide me.
As the discussion began, I stood before the decision makers, holding the papers in my hand. The discussion began, and I presented the information that I had prepared. I relied on my soul as a responsible leader.
I told them about what we face as youth and as women and the struggles and problems in our lives. I gave recommendations on how to improve our community’s situation. We heard from decision makers, who gave their own points of view and explained what they themselves are facing because of Israel’s occupation — including how the wars impede their work.
As I listened to the other youth presenting at the summit, I realized that my generation is becoming more aware of its rights and duties. Contrary to the stereotype of careless youth, it’s apparent that we have a great knowledge of our community; we just need a chance.
This experience has been a highlight of my life thus far,and has been the starting point in my determination to not be silent in the coming days. I have to be aware of what’s happening around me and give my opinion. I’ve realized I have a lot to offer these discussions.
I have to be brave. The president of Gaza municipality discussed our points, took notes on our recommendation, and issued a decision to build a youth council comprising 20 young people. This council will observe the ministry’s work and participate in decision making. I believed in my ability to make a change, and it’s incumbent on all youth to do the same until we meet our goals.
This event encouraged me to do my best for youth. Since then, I have become a member of the Youth Advisory Panel — with members from all over Palestine — and this position enables me to sit with decision makers who come to Gaza from all over the world to speak about conditions in the Gaza Strip and its needs.
The Palestinian youth have a great power that could enable them to change everything in their lives. We just need to use our energy and follow our dreams to achieve a life full of great opportunities.