Gaza is a troubled land, and growing up there isn’t easy. The 45-square-mile district is bordered on one side by the Mediterranean Sea, and by towering concrete blast walls and reams of barbed wire on the other. Its perimeters are continually patrolled by foreign soldiers. They are there to keep you in and to keep the rest of the world out. The never-ending buzz of drones lull you into a light sleep at night. Standing on the beach, you can see lights emanating from Southern Israel — a land that you can always see, but will never be able to touch. Gaza is unlike anywhere else in the world, a mix of traditional conservative Islam and western influence, of Bedouin people and conquering settlers.
When you’re a young girl in Gaza, your existence is defined by its boundaries — literal and metaphorical, defined by both regional and cultural politics. Families are tight-knit and watchful over their daughters. Privacy and mobility are both scarce. Many women say that in a place as small as Gaza, it is impossible to be truly free. Yet, there are moments of joy found in laughs at school, shared secrets with friends and moments alone to dream. Like many peers around the world, these girls are figuring out who they are in a world built by grown-ups. Navigating girlhood is universal, even if the circumstances are not.
“Gaza Girls: Growing Up in the Gaza Strip” is a collection of photographic essays and written accounts of women coming of age in this difficult place. The book is not inherently political. Rather, it is intended to highlight the challenges of daily life, as well as moments of joy found in a complicated existence.
I first travelled to Gaza to cover an eight day war between Israeli defense forces and Hamas. That was five years ago, and I have returned again and again since then, driven to document the strength, creativity and vibrancy of Palestinian girls and young women. I am awed and haunted by their tremendous resilience, even in the face of unimaginable adversity. I also see so much similarity between these teenaged girls and the teenaged girl I once was, despite our different circumstances.
This 120 page book due to be published in late 2017/early 2018 and expected to ship directly after publication.
Monique Jaques is a photojournalist based in Istanbul, Turkey. She has spent the past six years focused on documenting issues in the Middle East as well as Afghanistan and India. She holds a BFA from New York University.
She was nominated for the Prix Bayeux- Calvados ‘Young Reporter’ award for 'Growing Up in the Gaza Strip' and was also placed on the ’30 Under 30 Female Photographers’ list from Photoboite. Her project ‘Growing Up on The Gaza Strip’ was first published in the New York Times. She was also shortlisted for the 2013 Photocrati Grant. In 2012 she was selected as one of the recipients of the PROOF Award for the Emerging Photojournalist for her work in Post-War Libya and featured in the Bursa Photography Festival. She was also featured in the Ian Parry Scholarship show in 2009 and received an Honorable Mention for the 2008 New York Photo Awards.
Her work has been published by The New York Times, The New York Times Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, National Geographic, TIME Magazine, The Christian Science Monitor, and The Economist among others.