No girl afraid this Christmas | ActionAid UK

No girl afraid this Christmas

Yasser Toshtash

Programs Coordinator - Gaza

Growing up as a girl in Gaza is terrifying. Many are traumatised and missing out on education because of the ongoing conflict and a worsening electricity crisis. The dark streets are too dangerous to get to school in early mornings and there’s not enough light to do homework by in the evenings. As we launch our Christmas appeal to make sure no girl grows up afraid, read our interview with some brave girls in Gaza to see how you can bring hope for the future to girls at risk in the world's toughest places.

With frequent power cuts, Amnah finds it difficult to study at night and is at risk of falling behind at school.
With frequent power cuts, Amnah finds it difficult to study at night and is at risk of falling behind at school.

As the Programs Coordinator for ActionAid in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, I meet lots of girls who are living in fear. 

Amnah, 12, is one of these girls. She lives near the Israeli border and she often hears the sound of gunfire. She told us about a terrifying moment that she experienced just last year.

“I happened to get home early from school. I was waiting for my siblings and cousins to get back and have lunch together. Suddenly we heard shooting, very near to the road we take to school,” she said.

“I was so scared for my siblings and cousins, then we saw them from a distance, crying and very scared, they were running away from the shooting. I couldn’t reach them, they couldn’t reach us too. This was one of the hardest moments in my life. I felt my heart was going to stop!

Amnah, 12, wearing blue, with her family at home in Gaza.

Living in fear of the dark 

Since 2008, three large rounds of hostilities between Palestinian armed groups and Israel have caused thousands of civilian deaths and injuries. It is tragic but perhaps unsurprising that against this backdrop, more than 70% of children in Gaza worry about another war

And everyday life in this precarious situation has become even harder since Gaza’s only power plant was shut down earlier this year. Now, Amnah’s family only receives three or four hours of electricity every day.

This was one of the hardest moments in my life. I felt my heart was going to stop!

Without light, Amnah was too scared to leave her bedroom at night — even to go to the toilet. 

Sometimes I would need to go to the bathroom, but our bathroom is outside the house and at night when there was no light, I used to hold myself until morning,” she explains. “I didn’t sleep properly, but I wouldn’t go at the same time. I know it is not good for my health, but I was very scared.”

The electricity crisis also took a toll on Amnah’s performance at school, as she wasn’t able to do her homework in the evening when she gets home from school. 

“I am in my seventh grade, and I want to top my class and study hard,” Amnah said. “However, my grades are very much affected during winter, as I never had enough time to study.”

Providing hope for the future to girls at risk 

Our local staff and partners are supporting girls like Amnah, by providing LED lights to the families in greatest need so that they don’t have to fear each nightfall

After the light units we received from ActionAid, I felt a lot safer, relaxed and more comfortable,” says Amnah. “I move around freely in the house during the night, because when I turn on the lights, the fear goes away immediately. I can now study until 9pm, and I sleep feeling satisfied and relieved.”

Amnah and her mum Najah reading at their home in Gaza.

In Gaza, we are also working to install street lighting in the most vulnerable neighbourhoods, so that they are safer for girls as they make journeys to and from school. 

After the light units we received from ActionAid, I felt a lot safer, relaxed and more comfortable.

Long-term, we are working with public service providers to run safe spaces, where girls can take part in workshops focussed on drama and storytelling which help them deal with trauma. Through our children’s clubs, girls can build their confidence and learn about their rights, bringing hope for the future

Children sing in the choral class at the Al-Aqsa club.

How child sponsorship changes lives for good 

ActionAid believes all children should have an equal chance to thrive. In places like the occupied Palestinian territories, our child sponsorship programme helps to ensure that girls have food, shelter and education, and in the long term we are supporting whole communities to overcome the violence and discrimination faced by girls, to build a future where they can thrive.

With your help, we can transform the lives of vulnerable girls like Amnah through child sponsorship. “Having lights at home also allows me to practice my hobby in my free time, which is reading,” says Amnah. “I also can read my little sister Malak bed-time stories. She loves it when I do!” 

This Christmas, sponsor a girl with ActionAid and change her life for good. 

Photo credits: Celia Paterson/ActionAid