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Published on August 4th, 2015 | by Alexandra LACROIX | Credit: Alaa

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Youth For Change. Interview with Alaa, a young Palestinian trying to make a difference through online media.

Young people in action are everywhere. For once, UNITEE Blog went beyond the frontiers of the European Union to interview Alaa Hamamra, 24, a young Palestinian Blogger and content media specialist who tries to make a difference in her community through her work in media.

Together with 75 young people, Alaa was recently selected among 13 000 other applicants to a summerschool organised by the United Nations Alliance of Civilisations and EF Education First.

Alaa shared her thoughts on women’s issues, freedom of expression, the similarities between Western and Middle-Eastern Youth and her experience at the UNAOC-EF summerschool.

On Women’s Issues

Shedding light on the condition of Palestinian women and their image in the media must be a challenging task. Why do you think social and alternative media can contribute to change the stereotypical image – and then the reality – of these women?

Alternative media should present the side of women that is usually overlooked. Women are always presented as vulnerable. In the Arab communities, she is some man’s “honor” whom he takes upon himself to keep safe and under control. Traditional media representation of women makes vulnerability exclusive to women when in fact vulnerability is human.

Women in the Palestinian media usually appear as mothers of prisoners, housewives or love objects. I think a woman should appear as individual being on her own. If the Palestinian media focuses on the female entrepreneurs we have in Palestine, the successful business women, the women who are economically independent, and the women who made it to the government, etc, it can, with time, influence the way people look at women.

And in the end, people will start viewing it “natural” for women to be all that, not only is it natural for them to get married and have children.

In your article “On what it means to be female!”, you denounce the fact that “people in this society and in the world feel always the need to define- and so limit- themselves especially women”. So according to you, there is no such a thing as a definition of feminity?

This is according to history. If we take a look back in time across cultures, we find that femininity has always meant different things, and there was never some agreed-upon measures of what makes a female. In the past, fat women were considered more feminine and attractive than slim ones. In fact, this is true until now in some cultures.

When there is some image women should live up to in order to be granted the privilege of being feminine- which she already is, and nothing can take that away from her- that creates pressure on them, and it cripples their progress. If there is no universal set of rules that makes women feminine, I see no reason women should live by rules imposed by society. Something that is relative to one’s time and culture should never be treated as something sacred that is immune to criticism or violation.

“Dear women, say, do, live however you want, as long as you have these
two chromosomes (xx),
I guarantee you’re a female.”
Ala’ Hamamra,
hamamrathoughts.blogspot.be
On Blogging and Freedom of Expression

How is freedom of expression in Palestine?

In Palestine, freedom of expression is violated twice. One by Israel; any Palestinian who expresses opposition to Israeli policy or Israeli occupation is labeled a threat to the security and welfare of Israel and is thrown to prison at best, or murdered at worst, if one is not lucky. The situation under the Palestinian authority is relatively better, but it still does not live up to good enough, especially when it comes to sensitive political or religious issues.

I have a dream that one day in Palestine, all people would listen
respect and disagree with each other.”

Ala’ Hamamra,
hamamrathoughts.blogspot.be

How did you get started with your blog? Is it also a way for you to make a difference in your community?

It started out when I was at college; I was studying English literature at the time and I thought that starting a blog where I practice my writing skills will take my level some steps further. And it certainly did.

Later, blogging in English became a tool to get my voice to people from all around the world. One of the things I want to achieve through blogging in English is get the world to know about my country, the national aspirations of my people and the stories of people in my part of the world.

When I was in the U.S, everybody asked me about where I come from, and I always answered with a “Palestine” that I made sure I pronounced clearly. To my disappointment, the answer always came as “Pakistan?”. Only few people knew about my country. Writing is an act of showing the world that Palestine exists, this is why you read stories coming out of it.

On Youth in Action

Gender equality, freedom of expression, love, health… Except for your pieces on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, readers could think the author behind your articles is a young Westerner. Does it mean that Western and Middle-Eastern youth is not so different?

Generally speaking, you will find, in both western and eastern communities, people who have the same stands on different issues. It does not mean they are similar, but there certainly are certain things in common that unite us.

For me, the fact that I studied English literature got me closer to the culture and spirit of the west. I think of myself as someone who belongs to and understands both cultures. This does not mean that I conform to either. I pick and choose bits and pieces from both cultures that go in-line with how I want to lead my life. These picks makes me who I am.

“I don’t want to be anything, and I want to be everything.
Do you think I’m nuts?”

Ala’ Hamamra,
hamamrathoughts.blogspot.be

How was your experience in the UNAOC-EF summerschool, which brings together 75 young people from many different cultural and religious backgrounds to share their experiences?

It was so inspiring. I met amazing young people, and I learned from the best. It was the richest learning experience I ever had in one week. It broadened my circle of network, and more important, I came back overwhelmed with a desire to learn more about the countries and the other cultures of the world.

During every minute, I learned something new; everyone there had a lot to offer. The diversity, the positive energy and the willingness to learn made the experience extra special to me. It is a week to remember.

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Alaa is an English language and literature graduate who is passionate about photography, blogging and other alternative media.

Click here to visit her blog.

 Photography by Sarah Browne

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