One of the leading priorities for the UNICEF worldwide is its commitment to ensure that every adolescent girl and boy has the needed life skills to enable them to actively participate in building their societies and the knowledge, skills and support needed to fight HIV/AIDS.
The focus on adolescents in oPt as a separate age group with specific needs and rights, is a fairly recent phenomena. The Palestinian public still perceives adolescents as recipients rather than social actors or partners in decision making.
A second challenge faced by Palestinian adolescents is that very limited opportunities are available for them. This denies them the full right to develop into responsible citizens with needed life skills that enable them to actively participate in building their own societies.
A third challenge faced by Palestinian adolescents is their vulnerability in the midst of the current conflict. This is evident both in regard to the number of adolescents killed and injured during the conflict, but also in regard to the psychological distress found among adolescents.
The psychosocial situation among adolescents worsened during the past five years of conflict. Children and adolescents are suffering from emotional problems such as headaches, sleeping disorders, violent acts, loss of appetite.
Adolescents (aged 13-18) are becoming more vulnerable than other children to aggression, rebellion, risk-taking behaviour, helplessness, frustration and withdrawal.
Male adolescents have more opportunities to participate more in outdoor activities such as sports and cultural activities, meeting friends, and participating in trips.
Female adolescents on the other hand, participate more in home-based activities such as watching TV, doing school work, listening to music and practicing art/handcraft activities.
Reasons for limited participation, as indicted by young people, include the prevailing political situation, economic reasons, activity is not available and / or accessible, lack of free time and objection of guardians.
Young people from the West Bank are more hindered by the prevailing political situation while young people from Gaza are more hindered by financial restrictions.
In terms of participation in decision making, the participation of young people in decisions that affect their lives inside their families, in educational institutions, at work and in the community at large is limited.
Despite the current conflict and the continuous exposure of adolescents and youth to violence, a large number of young people consider continuing their education as a priority concern and they also perceive their future filled with hope and aspirations.
This reflects the need to provide the adolescents with opportunities to pursue their aspirations and be positive contributors to their communities.
To address the needs and rights of Palestinian adolescents, UNICEF focused on creating an enabling environment for adolescents’ development and participation including policies, organizational structures and advocacy with decision makers.
Through alliance building, UNICEF has and will continue to ensure that young people’s issues, needs and rights are mainstreamed into existing national policies.
Hope for the Next Generation
Palestinian children hope for a better future. In a survey of about 4,300 Palestinian youths aged 10-24:
Source: PCBS/UNICEF/UNFPA Youth Survey 2003