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Human Rights Education and Identity Construction: The Case of the Gaza Strip

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Human Rights Education and Identity Construction: The Case of the Gaza Strip

Venue: N44, St Mary's University
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Part of the Centre for Research into the Education of Marginalised Children and Young Adults (CREMCYA) 2019/20 Seminar Series.

Speaker: Dr Nancy Albhaisi

UNRWA stands for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East. Human Rights Education (HRE) is one of UNRWA’s programmes that aims to spread the culture of human rights through formal education. This programme promotes tolerance and conflict resolution, the main concepts underpinning both the policy and the schools’ human rights textbooks. However, the static notion of the universality of human rights faces challenges when considering Palestinian refugees’ experiences as suspended legal subjects who have neither a recognized Palestinian state nor citizenship.

Palestinian refugees experience constant discrimination and human rights violations as a result of political intricacies and the international community’s inability to perform effectively. The HRE programme raises concerns related to the extent to which UNRWA is aware of the representation of refugees’ identities, collective memory and struggle, as seen from a local perspective. This presentation will explore the process of identity construction in the HRE programme as opposed to the existent local process of identity construction, which is rooted in oral history, narratives and collective memory of three generations of Palestinian refugees.     

About the speaker

A Palestinian native of Gaza, Dr Albhaisi taught English at UNRWA schools in Gaza for four years. She developed a passion for studying the impact of the Human Rights Education (HRE) programme on Palestinian refugee students. Her MA focus was on exploring the ways in which drama and theatre pedagogy can promote democratic participation through human rights teaching. She volunteered at different local institutions in Gaza to conduct workshops on drama and theatre practice. She participated, as a trainer, a translator and a researcher for the ‘Music Fund’ project on using music as a pedagogical tool at UNRWA schools.  

This pedagogical curiosity, combined with her passion for researching HRE, encouraged her to engage in further research in HRE in relation to identity construction. This contributed to developing her PhD study in which she carried out a Critical Discourse Analysis of UNRWA’s HRE programme at UNRWA schools in the Gaza Strip. She carries on her independent research into human rights, identity construction and reconstruction, collective memory, gender inequalities, and peace and reconciliation.  


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