Al Shoka, Gaza Strip, 29 March 2018 – UN-Habitat jointly with UN-Women, the Palestinian Housing Council, Aisha Association for Woman and child protection, and GGateway inaugurated the first safe and inclusive community garden in Al-Shoka town in Gaza Strip. This initiative comes as part of the “Utilizing Digital Tools to Promote Human Rights and Create Inclusive Public Spaces in Gaza Strip” project, funded by the Government of Kingdom of Belgium, and aims at improving the urban environment and the living conditions of the residents, in particular children and youth.

Al-Shoka community garden was designed based on the needs and priorities of the local community, which were identified in the MineCraft workshop that took place in August 2017, where 13 design proposals were developed and presented by the participants. This initiative serves and supports Al-Shoka community and benefits more than 16,000 residents who suffer from a sever lack of public spaces, parks, and playgrounds.

The development of Al Shoka community garden was accompanied by several activities that promoted community engagement, especially youth and women, in the post-conflict reconstruction process in Gaza Strip, economic empowerment, and youth and adolescent’s civic engagement.

Representatives from the Belgian Cooperation in Palestine, civil society organizations in Gaza Strip, local and international NGOs, local universities, and community representatives from Al Shoka attended the inauguration.  “Building safe and inclusive public spaces by involving young people and women in the design and decision-making process, using a creative game such as MineCraft carries a message of hope and ensures a safer environment, especially for women and girls” said Eric De Muynck, Head of Belgian Cooperation.

Manal Abu Farwa, Al-Shoka community representative, reflected on the community’s experience in the design process of the community garden: “our experience in the design and implementation processes was unique and special, it represented our ideas and visions and enhanced our sense of ownership. We feel this community garden belongs to all of us and we have to look after it, maintain it, and respect it”.

“We at UN-Habitat work to improve the engagement of women and youth in the decision-making process on the different levels, and we believe that utilizing innovative tools leads to enhancing the quality of the living environment, supports the resilience of the community, and helps creating safe and inclusive public spaces”, said Zeyad El Shakra, Head of UN-Habitat Office in Palestine.