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TYO’s mission responds to a unique set of challenges in the Middle East, where conflict, poverty, and the marginalization of women, children, and youth inhibit the growth of healthy individuals and communities.
People and communities throughout the Middle East are regularly subjected to violence at multiple levels, from the national sphere to the household level. International armed conflicts continue to plague communities and disproportionately affect women and children. Recently, peoples across the region have risen up in protest against the repressive structures and policies of their own governments. These protests have frequently been met with imprisonment and torture, direct attacks on civilians, and a breakdown of law and order.
In addition to political violence, family violence detrimentally affects the lives of men, women, and children throughout the Middle East. Few researchers have studied family violence systematically in the region, and rates vary by country and community. Nevertheless, a review study found that the percentage of women reporting at least one instance of spousal abuse ranged from 22% among Palestinian refugee women in Lebanon to 64.6% among pregnant women in Turkey. Children are likewise vulnerable to abuse; UNICEF reported that 74% of children in the Middle East and North Africa were subjected to physical punishment in 2008, and of those, 34% received repeated blows, were hit on the head or face, or hit hard. For people throughout the region, violence remains a serious threat to life and well being.
Poverty and Unemployment
Many Middle Eastern communities also face severe economic challenges. The regional unemployment rate is 11% (Brookings), yet unemployment rates differ dramatically by country. In Palestine and Iraq, for example, unemployment rates have reached 27% in recent years (UN), and job markets remain stagnant. Likewise, roughly a quarter of people in the Middle East live in poverty, and several countries suffer from much higher poverty levels. For example, 47% of Palestinians live below the poverty line, and 44% of Egyptian households survive on $2 per day (World Bank) In addition to high levels of poverty, the Middle East has a high level of income inequality, 6:1 (World Bank). Due to these economic pressures and disparities, members of Middle Eastern societies struggle to connect across social and economic boundaries.
Many women, youth, and children are marginalized in Middle Eastern societies both socially and economically. While the specific challenges vary by country and community, women are often disempowered and lack opportunities to positively contribute to society. Despite increasing access to education, the rate of female participation in Middle Eastern labor markets remains the lowest in the world (UPENN). Similarly, youth struggle to find work; a quarter of 15-24 year olds in the Middle East are unemployed (World Bank). This rate of youth unemployment is the highest in the world. Furthermore, 15-29 year olds constitute 30% of the regional population, accounting for 100 million people (MEYI). The Arab youth bulge, would typically be a regional asset, indicating that the bulk of the population is capable of working. However, the youth bulge combined with high unemployment renders large numbers of idle young people who could otherwise be productive members of societies. Lastly, many young children in the Middle East lack access to quality early childhood education programs and safe spaces for play, which are critical to their development.
TYO recognizes that the challenges of conflict, poverty, and marginalization in the Middle East are severe, but by no means intractable. Through its programs, TYO supports individuals and communities in overcoming the detrimental effects of those challenges. In doing so, TYO enables children, youth, and parents in disadvantaged areas of the Middle East to realize their potential as healthy, active and responsible family and community members.