REFORM: THE PALESTINIAN ASSOCIATION FOR EMPOWERMENT AND LOCAL DEVELOPMENT | Palestine
“Since its inception, REFORM has been dedicated to promoting diversity and embracing differences as a valuable resource for social and cultural diversity, which in turn fosters solidarity amongst the various components of Palestinian society. We actively combat stereotyping and stigmatisation on all fronts. This award is a testament to our commitment on the right path, and we look forward to it being an international achievement for Palestine. It incentivises us to continue our courageous efforts against exclusion, power asymmetry and marginalisation. It will help in amplifying our voices to demand the restoration of democracy in Palestine”Oday Karsh, General Director of REFORM
At a café in the Palestinian city of Ramallah, young men and women sit in small groups discussing passages from Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist. They have come from different communities and backgrounds across Palestine to participate in this Cultural Café activity organized by REFORM: The Palestinian Association for Empowerment and Local Development. Guided by a facilitator, they discuss how the book relates to issues of belonging. Later, they stand up for a lively role-play game inspired by the book, in which each person assumes the role of another. These youth live in the nearby refugee camp, C areas (which are Israeli-controlled zones of the West Bank), the city of Ramallah or the surrounding villages. Encounters between them are extremely important due to the lack of civic space and the tense context of Palestine.
With movement highly restricted due to the Israeli occupation, there is a lack of democratic process and civic spaces; there are political divides, ongoing violence and economic uncertainty. Palestine is highly volatile and fragmented by stigma and social exclusion. Palestinian youth are increasingly encountering challenges that hinder their participation in social and political spheres. Many women are also marginalized in civic and economic life, while rates of gender-based violence are increasing.
Founded in 2012 by a group of young activists, REFORM is a Palestinian non-governmental organization working to empower marginalized groups and hard-to-reach communities to engage in social life and influence decision-making. To respond to the complex needs of their society, the Association has developed a wide range of initiatives—from its Access Beyond Borders project, which enhances the social and political participation of stigmatized youth and women from refugee camps, C areas and hard to reach communities, to its Governance and Public Policy Program, which reforms the public policy process to be more inclusive. Other projects increase women’s participation in society through economic opportunities and advocacy efforts. REFORM also trains and equips youth with the tools to transform conflict between groups and political parties, empowering them to respond positively to difference.
REFORM creates safe spaces for dialogue and connections between different areas and groups in Palestine, including marginalized community members and decision-makers. They are focused on increasing cohesion and solidarity between different Palestinian groups, especially those who are most polarized. Through a unique combination of awareness-raising, capacity-building, training and mentoring, they are enhancing the participation of all members of this diverse society, as a step towards the lasting peace and pluralism they envision for Palestine.