Gaza Girls Program
Created in 2019, the Gaza Girls program brings together Tomorrow’s Women alumnae in Israel, the West Bank, and the U.S. with their peers living in The Gaza Strip. Home to a population of approximately 1.9 million people, including some 1.4 million Palestinian refugees, the Gaza Strip has been under continuous blockade from the Israeli government since 2007. We developed this innovative approach to overcome travel restrictions for young Gazans, whose opportunities to connect across borders are extremely limited.
“I would never have thought that I would know people from the other side. Through these meetings, we discussed the conflict, got to know more about each other’s culture, our homes, and so many other things. We focused on what we have in common, which is our shared humanity; we shared our voices even though it’s hard to change the world, but we got to know that nothing is impossible if you speak up and raise your voice.” – Gaza Girl, age 16
Through a series of online meetings facilitated by Tomorrow’s Women staff and board members, participants are introduced to our core methods of Compassionate Listening and Authentic Speaking, taught leadership and peacemaking skills, and are able to share their personal stories. The goal of this program is to inspire hope for the Gaza Girls, and through these connections to the outside world, find ways for them to continue their studies and share their reality in the hope of a better future.
In 2004, Bessan Abuelaish, a 15-year-old from Gaza, came to our camp in New Mexico. Despite the many hardships she had faced during her young life, Bessan refused to give up her hope for peace. Her light shone brightly. Five years later, Bessan was tragically killed in the fighting between Israel and Gaza, along with her two sisters and a cousin.
Bessan’s (1988-2009) memory lives on through her father Izzeldin Abuelaish, a medical doctor who often worked with Israelis, and who published a book in remembrance of her called I Shall Not Hate: A Gaza Doctor’s Journey on the Road to Peace and Human Dignity. Tomorrow’s Women co-founder and filmmaker, Debra Sugerman created the documentary film Broken as a tribute to her legacy as a peacemaker; and the Gaza Girls program is dedicated to Bessan and all those affected by war and violence.
Image: Malak Mattar