Adolescents make positive changes in their community
By Sajy Elmughanni
Khan Younis, Gaza, 15 April 2015 - For 17-year-old Asma, speaking in public was her biggest fear. The thought of standing in front of her peers to present a topic, raised her anxiety to the roof.
Like many young Palestinians who live in the coastal enclave, Asma did not have much of a chance to engage in any social activity beyond going to school. Besides, being a girl limited her choices even further.
Even worse, during the past six years, Asma had already witnessed three conflicts, last of which was the 50-day escalation in hostilities that hit Gaza last summer.
Adolescents like Asma, have been living in an environment of protracted violence far too long, and are on the verge of losing hope.
With strong determination and high levels of resilience, Asma decided to take a step forward and make a positive change in her life. She joined a ‘Adolescents Make Difference’ initiative, which was made available at a nearby community-based-organisation.(CBO).
Funded by the Swedish Committee for UNICEF, and in partnership with Save Youth Future Society, this initiative reached 1,000 adolescents like Asma, across the Gaza Strip, with trainings on life skills, including critical thinking, innovation, cooperation and communication. It equipped them with emotional and physical wellbeing skills, and encouraged their positive engagement with the community around them.
Life skills’ training transforms adolescents’ lives
After receiving the training, the adolescents were encouraged to create initiatives that they believed are important to their peers and communities.
“I have never imagined that I could stand up in front of other students and present ideas,” says Asma. “Now I am presenting what I have learned to groups of students with much confidence, and it feels great.”
Ahmad, a 16-year-old adolescent, decided to focus one of the 456 initiatives on spreading the passion for music among his peers. “The music scene in Gaza in general, and in my community in particular, is almost non-existent,” says Ahmad. “As a music student, I would like to challenge my peers to experience music and encourage them to explore it with the hope of making it more popular.”
The one thousand adolescents who received the specialised trainings managed to transfer their knowledge to about 10,000 of their peers, aged between10-18. This was carried out through 456 initiatives implemented at 20 CBOs across Gaza.
These initiatives help adolescents and their peers to create an environment free from violence, and enable them to build a socially cohesive community.
Asma is not only equipped with the knowledge and confidence to educate her peers about important topics like early marriage and drug abuse, but she is also able to make positive contributions to her community. “I will carry on, this has become my passion, and I feel proud that I am giving something back to my community,” adds Asma