Joint Palestine-UK photo exhibition highlights barriers to rights of people with disabilities in Gaza

On 3 December Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP), and our Gaza-based partners the Nusirat Rehabilitation and Social Training Association and the Social Developmental Forum, were delighted to celebrate International Day for People with Disabilities with a photography exhibition held jointly in both Gaza and London, titled “Photographing Disability Rights in Gaza”. 

The exhibitions showcased the work of a group of people with disabilities in Gaza, supported by an exciting ‘participatory photography’ project run by MAP and our partners, telling their own stories through photography. In their pictures they shine a light on multiple challenges they face in their daily lives, including high unemployment, the impact of Israeli military offensives, inaccessible spaces, the lack of assistive devices, discrimination and sexual violence towards people with disabilities, and limited access to sports and entertainment.

In Gaza more than 100 people visited the exhibition and heard from participants about their photographs and the important issues they raise. MAP’s team in Gaza reflected on the confidence of the photographers when discussing their work.

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."

Several journalists covered the exhibition and interviewed the photographers and the team involved, including BBC Arabic, Al Arabiya TV, and local Palestinian news agency An-Najah NBC.

Ahead of the events, 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 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 from being 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.”

The London exhibition at the P21 Gallery was also well-attended, and many members of the public said they were moved by the photographs and their captions, and from hearing from participants through short videos produced with the help of the Social Developmental Forum. MAP staff from Palestine and UK discussed the project, and outlined the important next steps for ensuring the participants’ voices are heard by influential political decision-makers in Palestine and the UK. Speaking at the event, MAP’s Campaigns Officer Roisin Jacklin said:

“At the first photography workshop one of the first questions I was asked was why I hadn’t travelled to Gaza with MPs so they could hear directly from people with disabilities. One of the most important next steps of the project is making sure that the issues and messages raised by the participants reach MPs and as many members of the public as possible.”

The MAP team would like to congratulate and thank the photographers, our partners at the Nusirat Rehabilitation and Social Training Association and the Social Developmental Forum, for all their hard work. We look forward to reporting on the next stages in the project – including an online launch of the photos – in the new year.

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