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Palestinian youth
Today more than 50 % of the Palestinian population is under the age of 17, a fact that has often been ignored and neglected when analyzing or discussing Palestinian issues. Nevertheless, the realities and problems of a growing youth rate are imposing themselves on society as a whole and has now become a central issue within the development process. As a response to this, the Palestinian National Authorities has established a special Ministry for the Youth and Sports to meet these challenges. It is an investment that has returns for the present and future, providing it receives good planning, training and follow-up. According to Dr. Norma Masryyeh, Associate Professor of Political Sociology at Bethlehem University, who conducted a study on a sample of 1427 youth entitled ďSituation Analysis of Children, Youngsters and Youth (5-20 years of age) in the West BankĒ, different measures are necessary in guaranteeing the success of the Palestinian youth in fulfilling the joint basic demands of society. Among these are first and foremost an educational development according to market needs as well as the providence of areas and means for passing youth leisure time in a beneficial way, such as cultural and sports clubs, social activities etc. Most young Palestinians are much occupied with education, and 58.9 % of youth aged 10-24 years report that their main concern is centered on education. According to UNDPís statistics, the youth literacy rate among Palestinians aged 5-24 is 98.7 %. The biggest problem is hence not getting the young people motivated for school, but rather finding and creating activities for them in their leisure time as well as job creation, since the unemployment rate is very high. Due to the extremely unstable political and security situation, the greatest challenge in relation to Palestinian youth is how to positively spend leisure time. A survey made in corporation with UNFPA and UNICEF on a total of 4289 people aged 10-24 in the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip shows that 26.9 % feel that the political situation in the Palestinian Territory is the main reason for not practising desired activities, and 76.6 % of youth spend leisure time at home. It is hence very difficult for the young people to get their minds off the conflict and instead focus on cultural and creative activities, since most young people in Palestine (about 70 %) suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. A Canadian journal of psychiatry concluded that Palestinian children in the southern Bethlehem region of the West Bank, Palestine, have an unusually high rate of emotional and behavioural problems, and would require large-scale interventions to overcome the damaging effects of these levels of psychological morbidity. The creation and maintaining of cultural activities to encourage healthy childhood development for the large Palestinian youth population is hence very crucial for the future of the whole region. Al-Rowwad Center in Bethlehem is the product of a manís vision and dreams of creating better conditions and hope for the future for children and youth in Aida Refugee Camp on the West Bank. The center is an independent center for artistic, cultural and theatre training for children in Aida Refugee Camp trying to provide a safe and healthy environment to help and encourage children creativity and release of stress in the war conditions they are forced to live in. It was created in 1998 by Abdel-Fattah Abusrour with the support of UNWRA. Aida Refugee Camp was founded in Bethlehem after the war of 1948. It has a population of 4500 people originated from 35 different villages which were all destroyed under the conflict. About 66 % of the population in Aida Refugee Camp are under the age of 18, and 45% are under 15 years old. The harsh realties of Israelís illegal separation wall has had a deep effect on the young population of the camp, especially due to very limited space, since it has cut away the only bit of green space and places where children used to play. Al-Rowwad Center is now the only place where the children of the camp can seek refuge from the stress of violence and occupation and instead concentrate on creative knowledge and cultural exchange allowing them of self-expression through peaceful means in a secure and healthy environment. The biggest challenge is being able to raise financial resources in order to maintain the center and preserve the scarce equipment available, since it is often being confiscated or destroyed by the Israeli military. At the moment, the center is very dependent on donations, but its main objective is to have all the equipment and instruments needed to allow it to function independently, so that it would not continuously depend on donations, but rather be a complete and permanent cultural and theatre training center. If you want to make a donation or just have some more info about the childrens project please visit this website: www.alrowwad.virtualactivism.net

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