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Donation Funnel

Gaza: Our enterprising youth must be heard before their fragile hope is extinguished forever

Today’s youth face many challenges.

Globally around 126 million, or 30% of young people, remain in extreme or moderate poverty – despite having a job.

More than 115 million are unable to read and write and close to 497 million are unemployed.

In Gaza however, young people are struggling more than usual.

They experience the world’s highest rate of youth unemployment and have limited spaces in which they can express themselves.

Many feel they face a bleak future. Enterprising young people feel let down and ignored.

Some are losing their lives. Others are risking perilous journeys to seek opportunities elsewhere. Their stories must be heard.Through my work with Islamic Relief in Gaza, I work directly with families and young people. Everywhere I go, I hear young people expressing their despair and exhaustion.

Gaza’s youth feel there are no places where they can use their skills and knowledge.

They tell me they feel let down by everyone. Many believe their life has no purpose and have lost all hope for a better future. Tragically, some have even taken their own lives.


Struggling to build a livelihood

Others, in defiance of the challenges they face, have started their own micro-business like small restaurants and freelancing enterprises. It means they can depend on themselves rather than waiting for employers to recruit them.

However, these small projects face huge stumbling blocks. Their enterprises struggle as most potential customers here face the same uncertainty about the future – and therefore spend as little money as they can.

Computing and programming businesses have begun facing financial restraints, leaving young freelance workers without payment. This can quickly land the freelancer in debt, and with little or nothing to fall back on they are unable to carry on with their business and feel they can’t try again.

The blockade has impacted every aspect of the Gaza Strip’s fragile economy, due to the tight restrictions imposed on importing and exporting goods. Unemployment rates have soared to an unprecedented 46% (72% amongst youth aged 20-29).

Moreover, the 40,000 people graduating from university are competing for fewer than 8,000 jobs.

Gaza has experienced three devastating wars in the last 14 years, inflicting tremendous damage on lives, property and the economy – which is yet to recover.

The limited offering of goods caused a surge in prices. It costs a fortune to buy a bed or sofa now, let alone build a house. Many young people lost major opportunities for graduate studies and scholarships because of movement restrictions. Furthermore, job opportunities dwindled, leaving young people with limited life chances.


Seeking a better life elsewhere

Sharif* is a business administration graduate who has been trying to provide for himself and his family – he is their sole provider. He volunteered with many organisations hoping to gain the skills and experience to secure a decent job.

But after a year applying for every available job, all in vain, he made the hard decision to leave everything behind to seek asylum in Europe in pursuit of a better life:

You can’t say we are living a normal life in Gaza. Once a young man cannot buy himself an item of clothing, a good meal, or even live a secure peaceful life, life becomes worthless.

I am leaving Gaza dreaming that things will get better for me. But I am uncertain how it will turn out. (Sharif)

Unlike Sharif, Rawand is not leaving Gaza, but she is feeling frustrated with the lack of employment opportunities at home. An outstanding translator, she has worked in many organisations but has suffered as businesses downsize and jobs become increasingly scarce.

When we were in college she graduated top of her class, yet she lost many chances for postgraduate studies abroad due to movement restrictions.

Youth in Gaza are losing hope more and more without any way of salvation. I am one of the unemployed youth who graduated and volunteered for several years.

Suddenly, with this chaotic situation, lack of funding, and the high unemployment rate, I have been jobless for more than two years now, even though I have extensive experience in translation.

Furthermore, our dreams of postgraduate studies, are suspended by the movement restrictions, social norms, and being financially incapacitated. (Rawand)

Then there’s Mahmoud, who grew up in an orphanage in the Gaza Strip. He is a young artist who is trying to build a better future:

I tried teaching, training, and volunteering for any opportunity, as I want to invest in something that I love and make a living from my passion. (Mahmoud)

Mahmoud tried to invest in his artistic talent to make a living for himself and his family. However, it is very hard to convince families to spend money on artwork when they cannot even meet their basic needs, such as food.

Mahmoud travelled to Europe for higher education, and decided not to return.


Big dreams at risk of being extinguished

Securing a decent income is a basic human right. Many young people would like to start a family. But both seem impossible for young people in the Gaza Strip.

Each of these young people carries their dreams and aspirations on their shoulders as they walk the path towards the light at the end of the tunnel. However, most do not reach the light.

The challenges and hard times they face make some feel it’s impossible to go on.

Youth are leaving Gaza Strip for the unknown in Europe and other countries. They often risk and lose their lives taking perilous routes towards ‘freedom’ and prosperity, just because they cannot realise these simple human rights in Gaza.

The youth of Gaza are struggling to express their thoughts, hopes and desires to the world. They just ask for an opportunity to prove their worth, to contribute, to make lives for themselves.

They are trying to tell the world they exist. It is time the world listened.


*Name has been changed to protect the person’s identity.

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