Volunteering to Safely Remove Rubble in Gaza

UN Volunteers, Mona and Diana, at one of the rubble removal sites in Gaza

In Gaza, women and men are working together to pave the road for reconstruction after the hostilities in 2014. UNDP’s USD 14 million rubble removal programme employs engineers and workers to facilitate the removal of debris of destroyed homes and other physical infrastructures in Gaza. The programme employs four female engineers are volunteering and contributing to the reconstruction and improving their population’s life.

UN Volunteer Mona Ouda is a 27-year-old engineer working along with three other female engineers in the rubble removal project. “Working in the field is such a challenging task. Every day, we work among rubble and dust to improve the living conditions of families within our community and pave the road for the reconstruction of our homes,” she explains. “As a women, it is challenging not only due to the nature of the work, but also due to the emotional burden as we remove homes of other women. Women benefiting from the programme used to come to me, to explain how their home was demolished, talk about their economic situation and their lives. I felt I was not only an engineer, but also a woman supporting other women in the field and I am proud of it.”

Highlights

  • The United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme is the UN organization, active in around 130 countries every year, and contributes to peace and development through volunteerism worldwide.
  • The UNV Field Unit in the occupied Palestinian territory was established in 1994 to raise awareness and integrate volunteering into development programming, and advocate for recognition of volunteerism in the country.
  • UNV Field unit currently has 57 national and international volunteers serving in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip within government and other public sector institutions, UN agencies and civil society organizations.
  • The total number of UNVs in Gaza is 40 (2 international, 38 national) working for OCHA, UNRWA and UNDP.
  • UNDP has 15 engineers, as UN Volunteers, working on site to support the implementation of the rubble removal programme.

Mona sees volunteering as a mean to give back to the society and a very good step in her career development. “In a place like Gaza, with such high poverty and unemployment rates, volunteering for me and my colleagues is really something special. I enjoy it as I serve my people.”

With funds from USAID and the Governments of Sweden, Japan and Italy, UNDP is currently implementing a rubble removal programme that aims at removing one million tons of rubble generated by the 2014 conflict in the Gaza Strip. UNDP has been moving rapidly in clearing the rubble in order to provide Gaza residents with access to basic services, reduce the risk of collapsing buildings and the threat of UXOs and other remnants of war. Once crushed, the rubble will be recycled and used for road rehabilitation in the Gaza Strip. 

Diana Abu Ramadan is a 28-year-old engineer also working in the rubble removal project with Mona. “I challenged my family when I studied engineering, and then I challenged society by working in this field. Most of my colleagues would seek a job as a math teacher to secure an income, yet I wanted to work in engineering. My experience as a UN volunteer was amazing. I am working to help others improve their livelihoods. I am also contributing in safeguarding the environment since the programme is in recycling rubble and reusing it in roads”.

Mona and Diana have been working as UN Volunteers with UNDP in Gaza for eight months. Their contributions as women, in a masculine domain, are incredible! Both women, side by side with their colleagues, supervised and led the process of removing one million tons of rubble in more than 1,500 locations in different areas of Shujayia, Gaza City, Middle Area, Rafah and Khan Younis of the Gaza Strip. Through their work, they have allowed people to return to their homes in safety and dignity.

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