GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — In cooperation with the Palestinian Youth Advocacy Network (PYAN), the House of Wisdom Institute (HOW) organized a conference titled “Palestinian Youth: Between the Challenges of Reality and the Aspirations for Change” Nov. 20 in the Gaza Strip. The conference discussed a number of working papers offered by youth activists and specialists targeting three topics: the integration between society and youth, the new media, and youth and the political landscape.
PYAN, a component of HOW, is an elite body of youth activists with the common objectives of introducing the Palestinian cause to youth and bringing to them a deepened awareness of the Palestinian reality. It seeks to build a cadre of politically empowered youth capable of contributing to the Palestinian political establishment and to establish the culture of law and political partnership as political tools to achieve development.
People from the various official bodies, academic and community institutions, and youth groups attended the conference, during which they discussed the working papers.
Amani al-Falit, a student of political science and communication who attended the conference, told Al-Monitor that this conference is a continuation of the conflict management and resolution course that was part of a political empowerment training program held by HOW in August and September.
“This conference is a positive step toward educating the youth," she said. "The problem, however, is that most of the conferences and initiatives by youth institutions end up with the adoption of recommendations, which, although important, remain dead letters and unfulfilled. This is due to the lack of a favorable political and community environment that would ensure the application of said recommendations.”
HOW has given the youth who graduated from the political empowerment program the chance to offer research papers focusing on topics related to the political and media reality of Gaza’s youth.
Maram Madhoun, a diplomatic and international relations researcher, stated that she is not there just to attend, but rather to use the conference as a resource. She told Al-Monitor, “The sessions consist of a source of opinions and analyses that would allow me to focus on the youth to understand the complexities that the community, in general, and the youth, in particular, face at the current stage.”
She added, “I will continue to strive to be a seed of change that would offer the community ideas to become a civilized community and to lead other youth via ideas.”
Youth activist Iman Batniji took part in the preparations of a working paper on youth and new media. She said the conference discusses realistic and concrete issues that require the youth to make their voices heard in order to resolve them.
She told Al-Monitor, “The challenge that we, as Palestinian youth, face is to assume our role in the community, particularly since local and international institutions carrying different agendas may not examine the genuine needs of the youth, depending on their plan and parties supporting them.” She added, “What we need is a party that works to serve our causes, using our potential, and to refrain from relying to a large extent on the funders.”
Social media consultant Khaled Safi told Al-Monitor that he attended the conference to have a better knowledge of the political situation experienced by the youth at this stage, to learn what needs to be done to lead to national unity, especially on social media, and how to engage the youth in the political landscape.
Bdour Gharabli, who attended the conference, noted that the conference talks about issues related to the youth and Palestinian needs. She hopes that the youth can bring about change and strive to solve their problems. She explained that her motivation derived from her need to add something to the discussions centered on the requirements of the youth, since she is one of them.
Isra Yassine, who took part in the preparations of a working paper titled “The Youth's Political Participation,” told Al-Monitor, “We are going through an important transitional period in the history of Palestine. We are fortunate to have survived three wars and an uprising in this short life while we're still young. Hopefully, this historic stage will lead to national reconciliation.” She added that the conference comes at a time when the youth are in dire need for mobilization and political culture through talks with intellectuals and researchers.
In a related vein, Farah Baker, a young social media activist, stated during the discussions that she attended the conference to learn community participation skills and to know her rights. She told Al-Monitor that the discussions and working papers at the conference express her wishes and are in line with her demands that a better future be ensured for Palestinian youth.
Baker was one of the world's 100 most influential "global thinkers" in 2014, according to Foreign Policy. She is a business student and aspires to become a TV reporter and to travel to learn about new cultures.
Numerous views were expressed by the young participants and attendees, mostly focusing on their aspiration for a new and brilliant future and for a Palestinian reconciliation following the yearslong split.