Twenty-year-old fashion designer Do’a has a dream: she’d like to open her own fashion business. “I love designing and making clothes”, she said.
Vehicle electronics technician Nibal, 21, has a similar dream: “I dream of being able to open my own maintenance workshop after my studies.”Majority of Gaza youth unemployedDo’a and Nibal are both Palestine refugee students living in Gaza, where they have recently graduated from UNRWA vocational training centres. As one of the few organisations on the ground in the Gaza Strip, the Agency is relied upon by young refugees seeking educational and employment opportunities in the territory.Yet even with these limited opportunities, the economic prospects for young Gazans are dim. The latest figures place the unemployment rate for refugee youth in Gaza at 59 per cent due to a combination of political and economic factors – most notably the Israeli-imposed blockade.Training for a future with no jobsUNRWA operates two training centres, which provide 85 per cent of all the two-year vocational training programmes in the Gaza Strip. As of 2012, over 16,000 students have received a diploma, and more than one thousand will start training this fall in fields ranging from business management to nursing.However, not even a diploma from an UNRWA training centre can help graduates overcome the challenges of the job market in Gaza. With so few jobs in sight, many students feel hopeless about their future.“The socio-economic situation makes our plans for us”“What future plans can we make?” asked 20-year-old Wisal, a database programmer. “The current situation forces us to face reality; a reality without choices or dreams. The socio-economic situation makes our plans for us.”UNRWA training centres in Gaza prepare students with skills that allow them to succeed in their future careers, along with career guidance and job placements. However, the reality of life in Gaza is that opportunities will continue to be denied unless underlying realities are addressed.