For a non-violent back to school season

Friday 29 August 2008

All the versions of this article: [English] [français]

Letter from Catherine Pappas

Middle East Project Manager

How would you feel if your child had to prove his identity to a soldier armed with a submachine gun before climbing over a concrete block barricade, every time he goes to school?

This isn’t fiction, it is everyday reality for thousands of young Palestinians. I lived in Jerusalem for a year, I had to pass through military checkpoints regularly and I can assure you that you never get used to this institutionalized violence.

Palestinian families are being held hostage by the Israeli occupation. It has generated factional wars and a cruel lack of resources. Schools are especially affected and children are growing up in a powder keg, feeling uncertain about their future every day.

Given that these young people represent more than half of its population, what will tomorrow’s Palestinian society be like?*

These children urgently need our help to build a better future. That’s why I’m writing to you today. By supporting Alternatives and its work, you will help provide tools to populations who are living and growing up in a climate of violence and injustice.

In 2006, Alternatives developed a human rights and citizenship education project on the West Bank (an occupied Palestinian territory) in collaboration with our partner, the Teacher Creativity Center (TCC). Our partner is a nongovernmental organization that was founded by a group of teachers, who decided to work for a society free from all forms of violence, discrimination and oppression.

That same year, for political reasons, the international community cut off its financial assistance to the Palestinian Authority, thus abandoning an entire population. But Alternatives has continued to support TCC in implementing its project, which helps parents’committees and mothers’ associations network to raise awareness of their rights. The results are exceeding our expectations …

One example is the village of Kyfert in the northern West Bank, where overcrowding in the schools results in violence and a high rate of drop-outs. Trough our project, we supported a group of mothers who turned to the Palestinian Constitution to insist on their rights with local elected officials. They succeeded in getting the land to build a new school! Imagine the message of hope they gave to their children!

Now these parents’ committees are raising awareness of the importance of citizen participation and are creating partnerships with local organizations to improve their community.

This is how your donation helps to strengthen civil society and offer alternatives to violence. It will also bring communities together to reach their objectives of democracy, empowerment and fighting poverty. This is why Alternatives is also active in other war-torn countries:

• In Iraq, several decades of violence and conflict have left three million widows living in very precarious conditions. We set up a campaign with our local partners to ensure them a minimum pension. This campaign built unexpected alliances among different groups, who were working for the same cause for the first time!

• In Sudan, a country ravaged by war and poverty, we are seeking to consolidate two networks of nongovernmental organizations who work for human rights and the fight against poverty, in order to reinforce Sudanese citizens’ participation in their country’s economic, political and social development.

As you can see, to offer a future to these populations devastated by war, we must strengthen citizen action, build solidarity networks and mobilize communities around respect for their fundamental rights. Together, let’s work to ensure that the children of war have the right to a future!

Catherine Pappas

Middle East Project Manager

* Source: UNITED NATIONS POPULATION DIVISION. World Population Prospects: The 2006 Revision, October 2007

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