Palestinian youth tell the human stories behind the numbers in the news
When the world talks about victims of human rights violations living under oppression and in refugee camps, it is usually in terms of politics and numbers – specifically, how many killed, injured, homeless and/or dependent on aid.
But numbers are impersonal, and often numbing. What they don’t convey are the daily personal struggles and triumphs, the tears and the laughter, the aspirations that are so universal that if it weren’t for the context, they would immediately resonate with virtually everyone.
That’s why established and aspiring “word artists” from around the world have joined with youth in the Palestinian territories, and now, Lebanon, to create We Are Not Numbers. Through this platform, we share and celebrate their stories, with experienced authors mentoring the young writers.
We Are Not Numbers is a storytelling project launched by Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor in early 2015. The project brings budding young writers from the Palestinian territories who write in English and provides them with workshops on writing stories and articles, social media, and how to approach a western audience.
The goals of the project are to:
1) Help develop the language and writing skills youth need to obtain good jobs and earn internships or scholarships.
2) Nurture self-esteem through the publication of their work.
3) Foster international connections that will broaden participants’ world views, lessen the feeling of isolation and provide useful references when applying for internships and scholarships.
4) Provide a supportive creative outlet and environment in which participants build capacities in leadership, teamwork, critical thinking and advocacy.
5) Amplify their voices to help educate the world on the realities of life under occupation and as refugees.
Mentors help our writers with brainstorming and editing, while bringing an international perspective to the table.
Who Are These Mentors?
Mentors are journalists, book authors, communications professionals, and bloggers from English-speaking countries around the world. Some are Palestinians, such as Susan Abulhawa (author of “Mornings in Jenin”) and Leila El-Haddad (author of “Gaza Kitchen”). Some are Jewish Americans, such as Miko Peled (author of “The General’s Son”) and Alice Rothchild (physician and author of “Broken Promises, Broken Dream”). Some are journalists (such as Ben Norton from Salon) and others are even comedians (Amer Zahr, author of “Being Palestinian Makes Me Smile”).
The project's mission, as implied by the title, is to transform the preconceived misconception of victims of armed conflicts, by western audiences. The goal is to show them that these victims share the same human stories and talents behind the numbers often shown in the news and show that they too are humans with personal stories, feelings, lives, dreams, and hopes.
We Are Not Numbers recruits a group of developing writers every six months and provides them with workshops dealing with creative writing, social media, journalistic writing, and how to approach western society. These workshops are given by trainers who are either professional writers based in the Palestinian territories, primarily the Gaza Strip, or international journalists and authors visiting the Strip; many of which are themselves mentors in the program.
The stories and articles written by the writers are edited by the international mentors and then posted on wearenotnumbers.org. The project managed to cooperate with many international publications like HuffPost, Arab America, Codepink, and Mondoweiss. These publications help promote youth stories.
We Are Not Numbers offers both written forms of expressing youth thoughts and video production and drama. The project is also working on publishing its own book—a collection of the best stories published by the project's writers.
NOTE: Content published on WANN's website and social media platforms is not censored by Euro-Med Monitor. It solely represents the views of the individual authors and does not, by any means, represent the policies and positions of Euro-Med Monitor