Gaza Girls: growing up in the gaza strip

Monique Jaques

2012 - 2017

Gaza Strip, Palestinian Territory

When you’re a young girl in Gaza, your existence is defined by its boundaries — literal and metaphorical, defined by both regional and cultural politics. Families are tight-knit and watchful over their daughters. Privacy and mobility are both scarce. Many women say that in a place as small as Gaza, it is impossible to be truly free. Yet, there are moments of joy found in laughs at school, shared secrets with friends and moments alone to dream. Like many peers around the world, these girls are figuring out who they are in a world built by grown-ups. Navigating girlhood is universal, even if the circumstances are not.

Gaza is a troubled land— a 45-square-mile district, isolated by towering concrete blast walls, reams of barbed wire and foreign soldiers who patrol its perimeters. After years of blockades and travel restrictions, the territory is shut off from the rest of the world. At night the never-ending buzz of drones lull you into a light sleep under their watchful din. If you stand on the beach you can see lights coming from Israel — a land that you will never be able to touch. Boundaries and surveillance define your existence and growing up there isn't easy

So often we see Gaza through a dimensional lens of violence and conflict. Stories about quieter moments like these are often overlooked, though they offer a powerful look into world unseen by many. This work amplifies the everyday moments of joy and hope.

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  • Yara and her brother waiting for their father to return with schwarma as an evening treat after a recent conflict ended. As Yara is only seven, she still has a few more years to be a girl.

  • A building still smolders hours after a ceasefire is declared in downtown Gaza City. Each war brings massive destruction to the strip, of which only a portion is rebuilt.

  • Rawan Hamudi, 12, from Beit Lahiyah. “I spend all of my free time here and my family is very proud. This is my first time playing on a team. Before I played with my cousins.”

    Girls in Gaza typically play a variety of sports until they turn 16, when family pressure forces them to stop, as many families seek to find husbands for them.

  • Medical students from Islamic University on break in the Maternity Ward of Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza.

  • Doaa in a friends bedroom. Girls that are un-married have few places to be themselves. Bedrooms are one of the sanctuaries where girls can sing, dance and feel free without being judged.

  • Beauty is important everywhere, A girl shows off her Palestinian themed nails. Girls in Gaza are concerned with their appearance just like others around the world.

  • A girl performs an Egyptian song with a belly dance at a birthday party.

  • A bride waiting to enter the wedding hall. Women are now allowed to be seen on their wedding day by any man but their fiancé.

  • At a salon in Gaza City women come to get their hair, nails, and makeup done before weddings. In many families, a woman is not allowed to be seen without a veil by a man outside of her family, so beauty salons are for women only.

  • For many Gazans the sea is the only place they can be without being reminded of their isolation. Female Surfer, Sabah Abu Ghanem ,14 and her sister surf early in the morning outside of Gaza city. The sisters place first in many competitions inside the strip, but have never left the Gaza Strip to compete.

  • Carefully selected police cadets, trained to enter Hamas’s 200- member female police force. Hamas prides itself on the female police force and relies on it to enforce gender segregation in their security practices. After graduation, they will work in security, domestic-violence situations and interrogations.

  • Doaa takes a selfie at a cafe on the water in Gaza.

  • A battery powers the modem at a home in Gaza to give the family internet access during the long blackouts.

  • A woman walks by a mural discouraging domestic violence. Some 37% of women in Gaza are subjected to domestic violence by their husbands.

  • Shatha points to al-Majdal Asqalan, the ancient port city that her family is originally from and ed before the 1948 war. They were moved to Nuseirat camp in Gaza, where they still live today.

  • Doaa returns home from work in Gaza City shortly after the bombing.

  • Yara and her friends entertain themselves during a blackout in Gaza City

  • Yara and her friends prepare a dance number during a blackout. Fuel is scarce in Gaza and, at this time in 2012, families were receiving six to eight hours of electricity a day, more than today’s average.

  • A banner saying “Freedom for Female Prisoners” hangs at a traffic stop downtown. More than 10,000 Palestinian women have been detained by Israeli forces since 1967.

  • The 2017 class of Palestine University.

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