Palestinians place sandbags as they try to prevent rain water from flooding their house following heavy rain in Gaza City November 27.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Rita Eid is a 20-year-old student living in Gaza who has recently been recognized for her work with children and on alleviating poverty; she is a passionate advocate of peace and human rights. She recently spoke via Facebook with The Jerusalem Post.
Can you say a little about your background?
Can you tell us a little about your work in Gaza? I work in humanitarian and human rights areas. I worked during the Gaza war to establish a “hope” campaign with centers for the displaced, to alleviate civilian suffering and help people through providing various services. After the war on Gaza I worked with Conscience Foundation for Human Rights documenting Israeli violations. Recently I’ve been involved in raising the public profile of the celebration of the World Day of Peace, as well as protests against Israeli actions in Jerusalem, such as the threats to the Aksa Mosque. Now I’m working on the establishment of a series of courses and workshops, educational and awareness work in the areas of peace and human rights, as well as preparing a program of psychological work with children who have special needs in light of the recent aggression against Gaza’s civilian population.
I am now starting to open a new branch of the Organization of Peace and International friendship in the Gaza Strip, with a mission for education and awareness in the concepts of human rights, as well as providing assistance to the victims of wars and disasters, and also interest groups, such as marginalized women, children, the poor and people with special needs.
As for the obstacles that we face, it lies in the tremendous atmosphere of frustration and depression felt by many of the children of Gaza. I’m here trying to sow optimism and hope for a better future. We hope goodness and peace will prevail.
In fact, I started this work when I was 15 years old, when I was writing about the suffering of the poor and the oppressed and all who have no assistance, and this planted a seed inside me for doing humanitarian work. I wanted to talk with people about their suffering and I’m trying to set up a lot of the solutions to their problems, and this has become well-known on the level local. This led to my appointment as a goodwill ambassador by the Multi-Purpose Inter-Parliamentary Union and recognition by the Organization of the International Council for Human Rights, and this has increased the effectiveness of providing people the best services.
What are some of the issues facing children and people in Gaza?
There are a lot of issues facing people in the Gaza Strip, the most important of which is poverty, which exceeds 50 percent now, and also unemployment, which amounts to 90% among young people, in addition to the power outages [of] more than 15 hours a day.
As for the new problems, there is a lack of special shelters for displaced persons whose homes were destroyed by war, and there is no adequate remedy for all those injured. There are many critical humanitarian issues that need attention in the Gaza Strip, and the level of awareness is low internationally; there must be attention on this aspect in order to get to the level of intellectual awareness which would engender creative aid solutions.
Can you describe the situation at present in Gaza?
The situation in Gaza is frustrating, especially for young people, as there is not enough attention to their issues and the opportunities for them are almost non-existent.
The surrounding circumstances of the conflict around them, and the lack of stability in the political and security situations, including the lack of unity among the Palestinian governing authorities, and ongoing Israeli violations against the Palestinian people have all frustrated Palestinian youth and are strangling whatever hope dwells within them. I think that young people need more support for their skills so that they can succeed in various fields.
What specific issues face children and how does your work with art and other initiatives help them?
Gaza children are like the rest of the world’s children – deserving of a decent life that guarantees their safety and joy. We here in Gaza have passed through three wars in less than six years; our children need to unload these burdens through drawing, art or music.
They need psychological assistance and people to preach a better future for them.
What are your plans for the future?
I have many plans and projects to spread the culture of peace and democracy in Palestinian circles; through courses, seminars and workshops, [as well as] projects and long-term objectives to reduce the disproportionate poverty and unemployment in Gaza. I will work constantly in order to put a smile on the lips of the children of Gaza, and I will do my best to achieve our dream to live in lasting peace.Translated by Jerusalem Post staff.