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Palestinian girls in Ein El Hilwah, Lebanon

Amplifying adolescent girls’ voices is a key priority for GAGE. We do this through surveys, interactive qualitative research tools and adolescent participatory research groups. These photographs show adolescents’ reflections on the changes in adolescents’ challenges and opportunities over time, and how their lives differ from that of their parents and grandparents. The photographs are a product of interviews adolescents carried out themselves with their parents and grandparents.

Ola, a 15 year old Palestinian girl from Ain al-Hilweh camp, Lebanon

At the time of my mother’s adolescence, there was no worth for women and their opinions, and girls’ opportunities were limited. The society is like a closed vortex to women within which they are trapped, and they do not have the power or capability to express their opinions. Today, however, the girl can express her opinions and enjoy more freedoms within the boundaries of customs and traditions.

“No to violence”, this famous statement in the world, and I wish it would be applied! My mother endured all types of violence from her father. All this because he suffered severe mental and neurological stress. My mother had no power to prevent this violence or the freedom to escape it. She is a girl who did not live her childhood as we live it now. She lived inside a cage full of violence and control until she married when she was still a child at 15 years old. Knowing more about my mother’s troubled childhood helped me understand many of the issues she suffers today and her actions and reactions toward us, even if they are violent.

Knowledge is light, but it was not like this before. My mother left school at a young age when she was not even eight years old. No one urged her to finish her studies and her parents never cared about it. Therefore, she overcame everything she went through by encouraging us to complete our studies and to seek a better future.

Jouri, a 19 year old Palestinian girl from Ain al-Hilweh camp, Lebanon

Early marriage is the epidemic of every generation. This epidemic passed from my grandmother to my mother and sister and then to me. Parents believe that marriage is protection for the girl but it is actually injustice and suffering, and it burdens the girls with more responsibilities than they can bear. I only felt I am successful when I broke the early marriage cycle and went back to my studies and the life that every girl of my age should live.

No one likes their chains, even if they are made of gold. Freedom is a sun that must shine in our society every day. The girl in our society is forbidden from many things. She can only enjoy freedom from behind the bars that confine her. The girl cannot share her opinion on any matter, men make the decisions on behalf of women, just as my ex-fiancé did and forbade me from studying. The girl’s life passes from the father’s hand to the husband’s hand while she is just a silent bystander. This has been the case for my grandmother and mother, and continues to be for my sisters and me.

Naya, a 19 year old Palestinian girl from Ain al-Hilweh camp, Lebanon

Freedom and early marriage: The girl is like a bird imprisoned inside a cage. She is always disgraced, blamed by people, and forbidden from everything. I was prevented from flying in life and I was told everything is disgraceful and forbidden. While my mother was able to work when she was my age, she and my father prevented me from working. Since puberty for the girl means getting married, they wanted to marry me off to my cousin when I was only 17. I did not love him and I was lucky he emigrated before we got married.

Shaymaa, a 19 year old Palestine refugee girl from Syria, Ain al-Hilweh camp, Lebanon

Chaos of the senses: parents’ internal struggle between submitting to customs and traditions, and following reasoning and rationality in giving their children more margins of freedom.

Although the margins of freedom have expanded across generations and I have a greater margin than my grandmother did and my mother, society still imposes rules that limit the freedom of girls. Parents are still submissive to society’s rules fearing gossiping and exclusion even if they do not want to do so.

Embroidery for my grandmother was the only source of income for her family and for her brothers’ education. For my mother, it was the only work she was allowed to do. Embroidery for me is a hobby that I learned from my grandmother and mother.

The sunset has been and continues to be girls’ imprisonment, from the time of my grandmother’s adolescence to my mother’s and until mine today. Sunset is the time for girls to return home. Despite the beauty of the sunset, girls cannot enjoy it.