For years, Palestinian youth living in the West Bank and Gaza have seldom been perceived as an important resource for building their nation’s future. The Palestinian Youth Empowerment Program, or RUWWAD, is hoping to change that perception. Led by EDC’s International Development Division (under its EQUIP3 program), this five-year, multi-million-dollar USAID initiative involves Palestinian youth and youth-serving organizations in both humanitarian assistance and the planning and implementation of programs that affect their daily lives.
RUWWAD, which translates from Arabic into “pioneers,” also provides youth with valuable leadership and entrepreneurial skills. “These youth have had little sense of belonging,” says EDC’s Hisham Jabi. “They are very bright, but they are also very idle. There has been no positive mechanism to engage them in their communities. But I believe that youth can be the energy that provides humanitarian assistance as we rebuild.” The program seeks to engage 5,000 young people in leadership roles and reach another 100,000 youth with services and programs. Following the recent Palestinian elections, EDC is working closely with USAID to determine how RUWWAD can best make a youth-focused contribution in the West Bank and Gaza.
The project got underway last fall by convening the RUWWAD Youth Forum, which helped plan and conduct four kick-off events: Sharek, a youth anti-smoking campaign; a youth sports festival for female and male athletes at the East Jerusalem YMCA; Youth a-Live! Empowering Youth Through Media, a media training program for young people; and the Civic Forum Institute, which promoted youth involvement in the elections.
Originally published on May 1, 2006