The Forgotten Girls of Gaza
The Forgotten Girls of Gaza
Photojournalist Monique Jaques has spent two years documenting the lives of the girls in Gaza. Gaza is unfortunately forgotten under the constant international crises that erupt. Although arguably most forgotten are the people that live there, particularly the women. Monique notes that Gaza has an array of problems however, the situation presents a harder challenge to women, “who must navigate social and family pressures on their path to adulthood.”
Monique uses her photographs to show the lives of these women and how they react and deal with the political and international situation which they have been thrown into. What her pictures show are the clashes of culture in a society at war. On the one hand you find very traditional and strict views of how women should behave and act. Whilst on the other hand, liberal tendencies can be seen beginning to emerge.
Firstly Monique shows that there are few places where the people of Gaza can go, where they do not feel reminded of their isolation; one of these places being the sea. Sabah Abu Ghanem and her 14 year old sister surf early in the morning outside Gaza city and have placed first in many competitions inside the strip, however have never left the Gaza Strip to compete.
Monique also documents the women of Gaza and their subtle political statements. An example of this being a girl showing off her Palestinian themed nails after a bombing campaign. Monique also shows women still have access to education and are training, such as a photograph of a group of female medical students on break in the maternity ward of the Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza. Outside the hospital a mural is on display which discourages domestic violence as according to a 2012 study, 37 per cent of women are subjected to domestic violence by their husbands.
Very personal and emotional moments have been documented such as a pair of young girls found crying upon seeing their family home for the first time after it was destroyed. The home is where they have lived all their lives and have nowhere else to go. However, many try to carry on as they would before such as Yara and her friends who prepared a dance number during a blackout. Fuel is scarce in Gaza and many families only receive six to eight hours of electricity a day. Girls are also documented playing football in the Northern Gaza town of Beit Lahiyah. Women in Gaza typically do all types of sports however only until they reach the age of sixteen, when family pressure forces them to stop and seek a husband instead.
Although women within the culture are kept out of the way for want of better wording, many women still break the boundaries and challenge society such as Hadeel Fawzy Abushar. She is a 25 year old singer, who records songs in a studio in Gazia City. There are few female singers as families and local government look down on the practise. Hadeel started singing when she was 12, as all her sisters are singers also. Young women are also training to be in the police force. Hamas pride itself on its female police force, who are helpful with domestic violence issues and law enforcement.
Young girls can also be found to be politically active. They hold up signs saying “I really miss my dad. Bring him back home” at weekly protests for women against the partition of Gaza and the West Bank. Female drivers are also a rare find in Gaza. However, some liberal families allow their daughters to drive. Meera is pictured by Monique driving in her own car freely.
From examining the photographs what is quite obvious is that many women apart from the rare few continue to wear a headscarf and are fully covered, however their actions such as driving a car are different and arguably extremely new to the culture itself.
Monique shows that culture is ever evolving, it is not static. This is highly important and something that we should all keep in mind.
Nina is in her Honours year at The University of Strathclyde in Glasgow studying History. She loves keeping fit and healthy at the gym and singing to her hearts content. Because of Nina's love of all things history related, she has a passion for reading, writing and researching. Nina is the Editor-in-Chief for an online magazine for female students at Strathclyde called Her Campus Strath and wants to continue her passion for writing after graduation.