What is We Are Not Numbers?
We Are Not Numbers develops the communication skills of Palestinian youth living under occupation or as refugees, coaching them as they share the human stories behind the numbers in the news with a Western world that knows them only as stereotypes.
How did WANN start?
We Are Not Numbers was founded in early 2015, conceived by American journalist Pam Bailey and brought to fruition with the support of Ramy Abdu, board chair for the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor. The project launched under the umbrella of Euro-Med, which provided significant logistical support; today, our fiscal sponsor is Nonviolence International.
What is the Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor?
The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor is a youth-led independent, nonprofit organization that advocates for the human rights of all persons across Europe and the MENA region, particularly those who live under occupation, in the throes of war or political unrest and/ or have been displaced due to persecution or armed conflict.
Euro-Med Monitor was established in November 2011 and is registered in Switzerland (CH-660.0.748.015-1), where it maintains its official headquarters. The idea of Euro-Med Monitor is inspired by the people’s will to rebel against tyranny and oppression that swept through the Arab region in 2011 and continues to percolate everywhere. Euro-Med Monitor strives to support these movements by planting the seeds for international mobilization and stimulating human rights organizations and decision-makers to focus on violation of the people’s right to expression and freedom.
The story behind We Are Not Numbers:
During the Israeli military attack against Palestinians in the summer of 2014, Ahmed Alnaouq’s 23-year-old brother, Ayman, was killed by an Israeli missile while simply walking on the street near his home in Dir-Al-Balah. Ahmed sunk into depression from which he thought he would never return to normal life again. During this time, he met Pam Bailey, who encouraged him to write his story. The story resonated with and attracted a great deal of attention from people in the West. As a result, established and aspiring “world artists” from around the world joined with youth in Gaza, and now, Lebanon, to create We Are Not Numbers. Through this platform, we share and celebrate the stories, daily personal struggles and triumphs, the tears and the laughter, and the aspirations of Palestinians that are so universal that if it were not for the context, they would immediately resonate with virtually everyone.
What is We Are Not Numbers?
There are many Ahmeds in Gaza, who are aching with loss, struggling to eke out a living and feeling neglected by the world. Fifty percent of the population are between the ages of 15 and 25 – about 70 percent of whom are unemployed. Their stories deserve to be brought to the attention of the Western world whose foreign policy has caused so much of their distress. At the same time, we need to give these youth a way to turn their writing into a mission with a purpose.
WANN recruits young, developing English writers. To provide the coaching they need to reach their full potential, each participant is assigned a mentor who is both a native English writer (so rare in Gaza these days) and published author. The mentors coach them on their language/writing skills and the project publishes their essays, poems, etc. on the realities of their lives to educate Western audiences and build bridges based on greater understanding.
In the process, we encourage freedom of expression and civic engagement and the youths build relationships with influential advocates around the world.
What are our goals?
1) Develop the language, media and storytelling skills Palestinian youth need to obtain good jobs and earn internships or scholarships.
2) Nurture self-esteem through self-expression and publication of their work.
3) Foster international connections that broaden participants’ world views, lessen the feeling of isolation and provide useful references when applying for internships and scholarships.
4) Provide a supportive creative outlet and environment that promotes positive mental health and in which participants build capacities in leadership, teamwork, critical thinking and advocacy.
5) Amplify youth voices to help educate the Western world on the realities of life under occupation.
Some of our special projects:
WANN Participation in the International Forum,
Gaza Siege: An Ongoing Crime
WANN Visit to Al-Rantisi Hospital
We All Live in Gaza
WANN virtual tour: A visit to the old town in Gaza, and an introduction to some of the oldest places there
WANN was a partner in organizing a writing contest on the theme of the traumas during the attack on Gaza, in cooperation with Cinta Malysia Cultural Center
George Floyd mural in Gaza
Gaza Vision singing contest
“Dreams in the Crosshairs” short film
We Are Not Numbers rap
“Six Miles Out” Short Film:
Why should people contribute with individual donations?
When the world talks about Palestinians living under occupation and in refugee camps, it is usually in terms of politics and numbers – specifically, how many killed, injured, homeless and/or dependent on aid. But numbers are impersonal, and often numbing. What they don’t convey are the daily personal struggles and triumphs, the tears and the laughter, the aspirations that are so universal that if it weren’t for the context, they would immediately resonate with virtually everyone.
To survive, grow and resist in Gaza, we need more than the typical aid, however. As youth, we know we are the next generation of leaders, and more than anything we need to develop our creativity, be given a platform through which we can be heard, develop our skills, forge international connections, and also, simply, HAVE FUN.