Adolescents in Gaza and the West Bank come from families who have experienced multiple generations of conflict and Israeli occupation. In addition, those in Gaza are facing intentional de-development, with the UN warning that the area could become “uninhabitable” by 2020 if current trends continue, while the population in the West Bank must deal on a daily basis with the Israeli-West Bank Barrier that precludes normal movement throughout communities. While teens’ access to basic services is comparatively high on regional terms, the toll of the protracted conflict on young people’s psychosocial stress and opportunities for voice and agency is very challenging.
Education and learning: adolescent girls in Gaza and the West Bank are far more likely to attend secondary school than their male peers. In Gaza, nearly 80% of girls between the ages of 16 and 18 were enrolled, compared to less than 67% of boys. Facing the world’s highest unemployment rates, families in Gaza need their boys to take on informal work to supplement household income.
Bodily integrity: adolescent girls living in Gaza are almost twice as likely to be married as children than those living in the West Bank. Nearly 13% of girls between the ages of 15 and 19 are already married. Furthermore, more than one-quarter of adolescent girls and young women living in Gaza report having been sexually harassed—and more than half of all married women in the area report violence at the hands of their husbands.
Sexual and reproductive health: of women between the ages of 20 and 24, more than one-quarter had their first child before the age of 18. In addition, contraceptive use is low because desired fertility remains high.
Nutrition: as diets in Gaza and the West Bank have transitioned to include the empty calories common in more western diets—and lifestyles have become more urban and sedentary-- obesity is a growing challenge for both adolescent girls and boys. Girls are particularly disadvantaged because of limits on their mobility and physical activity. Rates of smoking are high among boys.
Psychosocial wellbeing: the continued Israeli occupation, which has devastated Gaza’s economy and left the West Bank fractured by walls and settlements, has led to high rates of depression and anxiety among young people—who are surrounding by violence and all too aware of how their macro-environments restrict their futures. Half of adolescents in Gaza are estimated to experience post-traumatic stress symptoms and 80% of those in West Bank have witnessed at least one shooting.
Voice and agency: adolescents in Gaza and the West Bank have opportunities for participation—and even community activism-- that their peers in Jordan and Lebanon lack. But opportunities for meaningful political participation are circumvented by the Israeli occupation.
Economic empowerment: while the vast majority of girls and young women in Gaza and the West Bank are not in the labour force, largely because they are in school but also because they have too much work to do at home, of those who would like to find paid employment—almost 80% are unable to find jobs.