Islamic Relief is empowering Gazan communities in the fight against poverty, thanks to an ambitious European Union-funded project.

The 28-month Gaza Strip project, which began in 2012, brings together community-based organisations in the Middle District under new neighbourhood committees.

Delivered in partnership with the CIVITAS Institute, the project promotes active civil and democratic communities. Muneeb Abu Ghazaleh, Islamic Relief’s country director, believes that it is crucial to harness existing grassroots skills and energy to fight poverty.

“The project will improve the community’s technical and social skills,” said Muneeb. “By building bridges between experienced older people and energetic young people, it will promote community participation and achieve sustainable development.”

Strengthening community voices

As well as providing office space for the committees, the project delivered training to help them work successfully for justice and rights for all. Training included strategic planning and advocacy, as well as how to effectively assess needs in the community.

“The project stabilised the neighbourhood committee status after providing a fully equipped and furnished location,” said Naser Rabah, a member of the Al-Maghazi neighbourhood committee. “Now, we have this base for the committee, known and accessed by the community.”

Saied Habbash Mukhtar, said the training has helped the Deir Al-Balah neighbourhood committee, of which he is a member.

“Training helped us think together and solve community problems, in addition to organising our work and cooperation,” said Saied. “This is the first project of its type as it enhances and empowers the neighbourhood committees. We are more organised now and our communication with the people is improved.”

Promoting social participation in decision-making

Providing a bridge between communities and municipal governments, the project is facilitating widespread participation in improving essential services and developing the area.

“In the past, social participation in problem solving was limited because neighbourhood committees were just an idea without any organisation,” said Mohammed Abu Shkiyan,

Mayor of Nusairat. “Now we can say that this idea was developed and we already have these committees active, having a real role and helping in bridging views between the citizen and the municipality.”

Mobilising against poverty and suffering

Organisations and committees are also to receive technical and financial support to design and deliver small schemes to tackle poverty in the area – as well as mobilising the community to fight poverty in the Middle District.

“The next steps for this project is to form a steering committee for the alleviation of poverty,” said CIVITAS General Director, Maher Essa, adding that the committee will bring communities together to progress a shared anti-poverty agenda with the “staying power to ensure that the ideas translate into practice so that, hopefully, a much greater number of people can benefit.”

Islamic Relief has been working in the Gaza Strip for two decades, delivering vital development and emergency projects. It is currently calling for an increase in humanitarian support inside the coastal enclave, where poverty continues to deepen and local people suffer the impact of acute shortages in fuel and medical supplies.