People with disabilities in Gaza launch joint Gaza-London photography exhibition

Today Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) is celebrating International Day for People with Disabilities with a joint photography exhibition being held in both Gaza and the P21 Gallery in London, titled “Photographing Disability Rights in Gaza”. 

The exhibition showcases the work of a group of people with disabilities in Gaza, who were supported by an exciting new ‘participatory photography’ project run by MAP to tell their own stories through photography. The participants hope that their photos will help other people – both in Palestine and the UK – better understand their lives and the barriers to their enjoyment of many basic rights.

In September 2019, 15 Palestinians with disabilities met with MAP and our partners the Nusirat Rehabilitation and Social Training Association to learn about participatory photography. Over three months, they captured photos on their phones of places, people, and objects of importance to them as well as the difficulties they encounter in their daily lives. 

In workshops supported by the Social Developmental Forum, a Gaza based community organisation, the participants came together to discuss their photos and the issues raised. These included high unemployment amongst Palestinians with disabilities, the impact of Israeli military offensives, inaccessible spaces, the lack of assistive devices, discrimination towards people with disabilities, and limited access to sports and entertainment. 

One participant, Ahmed, described how the project has given him new opportunities to express himself:

“I was born unable to express myself in words, but thanks to this project I can express myself by taking photos. I am truly happy that I got the chance to learn basic photography skills in order to reflect my daily hardships and dreams through photos. I feel empowered. I can speak my mind, and I have the freedom to choose my photos and write my own captions."

The photos on display in the exhibitions were chosen by the group to best illustrate their concerns. The exhibitions aim to provide an important opportunity for the public in Gaza and London to hear directly from the participants about the challenges they face.  

Samar, one of the photographers, explained some of the messages the group wants to share with the world through their photographs:

"As people with disabilities we suffer from the Israeli occupation and the blockade, but we also suffer from the Palestinian society that refuses to see us as citizens with full rights with the potential to be productive. 

“Due to the Israeli occupation, we are unable to leave Gaza and we are unable to receive the needed medical treatment and get the needed assistive devices. Due to our harsh society, we are unable to be employed, or get married or have a chance to participate in recreational activities. We are sentenced to imprisonment in our houses. The society perceives us, women with disabilities, as disqualified to be wives, mothers or colleagues. It is true that we have disabilities. It is true that I cannot see. But with the right adaptations we can be as productive as anyone else in society. 

"I want this photography project to be the start for people in Gaza and outside Gaza to see us and understand our struggles. We should not be left on the margin. With an inclusive society, we have a lot of potential to prosper and make a positive change in our society.”

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