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Palestinian girls living in war zones outperform boys academically


Palestinian girls focus on studying and writing, and are generally found to do better at school than boys during war time, suggest Queen’s University researchers.

“War and violence limit opportunities for girls,” says Hana Saab, research associate with the university’s Social Program Evaluation Group’s (SPEG) Palestinian youth project. But they suffer the consequences much differently than boys.

Funded by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), the research was conducted through a partnership between Birzeit and Queen’s Universities. Carried out in the West Bank’s occupied Palestinian territory, findings suggest that gender roles have a significant impact on how girls deal with the effects of living in contexts of prolonged conflict and violence.

Current research also suggests that the different needs of both sexes should be identified when designing approaches for working with Palestinian girls and boys with psycho-social and emotional health needs due to war zone conflict.

“Psycho-social mental health interventions have to be designed in ways that address gender differences and can’t follow a biomedical model where everyone is treated in the same manner,” says Ms Saab, a doctoral candidate in Education.

She suggests that girls are more social than boys, which means peer-to-peer support and group counselling are more effective in addressing psycho-social and emotional health issues in girls. SPEG is currently conducting a pilot project in the West Bank to test these forms of treatment.

“Working with community-based rehabilitation centres, our research groups hope to develop an approach for dealing with mental health issues that are sensitive to cultural values and gender roles,” says Ms Saab.

The research consisted of two phases, which surveyed over 3400 girls and boys in grades 10 and 11. The first phase highlighted a need to address gender differences in the way youth respond to trauma, and how the social conditions surrounding them changed in response to conflict and violence.

Ms Saab was part of a panel discussion earlier this week at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in New York. As part of the discussion of how girls survive in situations of violence and armed conflict, her contribution was a discussion of gender issues compiled by SPEG’s research among adolescents in the West Bank.

She also participated in a panel discussion in Ottawa put on by IDRC and The Gender and Peacebuilding Working Group of the Canadian Peacebuilding Coordinating Committee.


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