Beit Lahia, Gaza Strip, 29 August 2018 – Coinciding with the Joint UN Campaign in the State of Palestine to celebrate the International Youth Day, UN-Habitat jointly with UN-Women, the Palestinian Housing Council, Aisha Association for Woman and child protection, and Gateway recently inaugurated the second safe and inclusive community garden in Beit Lahia in Gaza Strip. Innovative tools and approaches that aimed to promote youth leadership and participation and to develop their skills and knowledge to make informed decisions about their lives and their built environment were utilized to design Al-Shaimaa community garden.
The design of Al Shaimaa garden is a result of several consultations with different community groups and perfectly matches the needs, priorities and visions of local community, which were reflected during the MineCraft workshop that took place in January 2018, where 11 design proposals were developed and presented by the participants. The garden design promotes equity and inclusiveness by offering comfortable places and easy circulation for different groups including children, women, girls and disabled people. More than 90,000 residents who suffer from continues stress and fragile social cohesion are expected to benefit from the newly designed and implemented public space. The development of Al-Shaimaa 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 local community, Beit Lahia municipality, civil society organizations, local and international NGOs, and local universities attended the inauguration of Al-Shaimaa community garden. Shorouq Rajab, Beit Lahia youth representative who participated in the design and implementation of the garden, reflected on the youth engagement in developing their communities: “standing today in the garden that each element of it is inspired by our designs, I can say that this unique initiative promoted our (youth) interest and willingness to engage in community service and any other forms of public engagement, and this garden is a great evidence that we are ready to work hand by hand with the municipalities and local organizations to improve our built environment”.
“We at UN-Habitat believe that the full youth representation at all levels is a must to achieve peace, prosperity and sustainable development, especially in a country that is characterized by its young population like Palestine. Therefore, we put youth at the center of our initiatives and programmes”, said Zeyad El Shakra, Head of UN-Habitat Office in Palestine. “This community garden offers a space for youth to come together, engage in social activities, participate in the decision-making processes and freely express themselves, and UN-Habitat will continue jointly working with international and local NGOs to embrace youth as active partners on the journey of “Leave No One Behind”, he added.
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.