HER STORY #77 - mariam

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Can You Tell Me Who Mariam Is?

Well, that is a tough question. Let me think.

I believe I am just a normal, very ambitious girl living in the Gaza strip who wants to accomplish and reach the highest and most truthful expression of myself as a human being. Someone who wants to leave a mark. Someone who wants to achieve God’s lofty purpose when he created us.

I would never stop developing, growing or stop at some point. I always seek improvement and setting a great example for everyone every day. I have some priorities, goals and plans that I really wish to achieve.

For example, my first dream for now is to pursue a master’s degree in International- or Sustainable Development. This is the bridge that will allow me to be part of international humanitarian organizations that offer help and support for people and make a difference in people’s life as this is the message in life. I seek to set a sample of joy, happiness and success to everyone I met.

My dream is to leave a legacy that would reflect people’s lives in a way that will change them to become a better person and have a greater life. And maybe travel the world, settle, have a family and live happily ever after. This is not a fairy tale and I know life is hard but this is not impossible. All is possible for me. We can choose how we want to live our lives and guide the directions because we are the driver of our lives.

NGOs And Gaza

I live in Gaza, and I have been involved in NGO work for a long time.

My first purpose for me entering NGOs is to make a difference in people’s lives. But unfortunately, I found out that there is a huge gap within NGOs, especially within the local ones.

The problem is that projects are not sustainable; they only last for a specific period of time and then they stop. What about people? How will they survive? I feel their suffering. It is really tough. We must change this. We need to start from a different point.

I see the suffering with my own eyes. When I worked in one of the NGOs, several women came to me asking for help because their husbands were either disabled or unemployed so women find themselves responsible for the family. This issue is not only related and connected to women; the whole society is suffering. Women and young people at the top. This is all disastrous. The economic conditions in Gaza have affected it all. It feels like the projects are not aiming to serve people but rather just to show-off or build a reputation.

Humanitarian Work

I love to help people directly. I want to be the one who goes and listens to people, not only in Gaza scale but worldwide. It feels great when you are helping others, seeing their smiles, knowing that you touched someone’s heart and you have a good impact on them even it is a little impact. Also, I believe that this will return with bliss into my life.

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I would love to leave a legacy and a mark and a positive impact behind, contribute in making the world a better place. Letting the world knows that I was here. 

Also, someday I want to get involved in research within the area of development. When I worked in NGOs, I noticed the lack of information and studies that are related to humanitarian action work and development, which should be a base for reference when we attempt to solve problems. We should solve these issues from their roots rather than solving them superficially.

Family

I was born from a Filipino mother and a Palestinian father.

I was raised outside Gaza until the age of seven, when I first time came to Gaza. Mostly, my father raised me because I am the only one who came with my father and my mother wasn’t there. She was abroad with my other siblings. Then, after a couple of years, she came to Gaza.

I was raised within diverse cultures, Philippine and Palestinian. As I grew up, I really feel that it has impacted the way I think. It made me more open-minded but still with my own limits. I perceive things, not in a traditional way. I don’t believe girls have to be in a certain way or must abide by specific restrictions and traditions.

While growing up I always knew why fathers act in a protective way. No matter what, every father will always have that parental instinct to protect his own children, especially the Palestinian father.

For me, family is my number one and without them I can’t even imagine how to live. They are my support, the ones who I always count on, and I feel safe around them.

Every time I travel and somehow meet Filipino people or Palestinians, I always feel that I have a sort of connection with them. It makes me happy.

I hold a Filipino passport and I don’t have a Palestinian one but I do have a Palestinian ID. Therefore, when I travel, I use the Filipino Passport and I know that it is difficult to travel as a Palestinian specially if you only have Palestinian passport. I see how humiliated Palestinians are at borders. I really feel bad. I wonder: What is this humiliation for? Why Palestinians specifically? It feels like Palestinian rights are not like the rights of other human beings.

They are humiliated everywhere whether they are traveling or immigrating. In all cases, it is as if they must suffer to reach their goals. When I travel, and they hold my Filipino passport, they treat me very well, and they are often welcoming, but when they know we are coming from- or getting into Gaza, they completely change. Why? Because I am still a Palestinian.

Another thing: This is frustrating and tough. It annoys me. That is when someone asks me where I’m from. Then I say “Gaza, Palestine,” and they don’t know it. Then I say Israel, and they know it. It frustrates me a lot.

Wars

It is well known and familiar that in times of war embassies call their citizens and sponsors, and bring them out from the war zone. During wars my mom always says: “No, it will end and there’s no need to travel.” So we always end up travelling abroad during the last week of the war.

The first war was the most difficult one. I was in secondary school at the time. I was in school at the time of the first bombing. I didn’t know anything besides the planes striking us, and we were running in the streets. People were all running. No one could get us a car to go home.

It was like the end of the world. It felt like we were rats going through a lab experiment and they want to haunt someone. I was running to the point that I fell on the ground and my clothes ripped off. I remember my friend asked the driver to wait for me, but the driver refused, and my friend refused to get into the car, and she waited for me.

It was like the end of the world. Everyone wants to survive.

Back then, the only thing in my mind was: Is my family safe? What is happening with them? And I kept imagining that I would become a shredded piece. I kept praying that my family would be fine as my siblings’ schools were near the police stations which were targeted, and I also kept praying that in case I died, I didn’t want my family to be sad and cry for me.

Also, I remember we went into a house of an old man we didn’t know, but we wanted to hide. We were really scared and I panicked. We were running really fast but the shooting was close to us near a police station. My friend told me that we couldn’t go there, because they would bomb it, so we stopped and hid in the house. The girls who kept running were injured and the station was bombed. It was really scary.

Why is this happening to us? When any war is launched against Gaza or Palestine, I always wonder why Palestinians have to suffer or endure wars.

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Interview conducted on June 23, 2019 by Wajiha Al Abyad