Lujain Zaidoun Subhi
MA in Peace and Development Studies, UL
Before coming to Ireland, I was working as a community development worker in Beit Safafa Women’s Society in south Jerusalem. I was responsible for managing projects that aim to empower the youth in the village, which meant I needed to understand their needs, and develop ways to provide them with the skills and knowledge they required to help them meet these needs. I also managed the library at the Women’s Society, and I worked to provide more useful and enjoyable experiences for children living in conditions of socio-economic deprivation.
The job I was doing could not be described as one position, but was rather humanitarian work through which I sensed and recognised the obstacles people face, and tried to resolve them.
My choice to study Peace and Development Studies at the University of Limerick (UL) reflects my deep awareness of my community’s needs and demands. It also reflects my belief that a brighter future depends on us – those who aim to make a change for the better. Through being a human, a woman, a Palestinian and a Muslim, I have experienced a lot in many aspects, which has made me feel unique, but also connected with other people around the world who suffer through conflicts.
When I first looked up the course modules for the MA in Peace and Development Studies at UL, I found out that the programme provides students with expertise in community development and conflict resolution through different approaches and case studies. So far, I have taken two modules, and they have increased my level of knowledge and awareness about not only what is happening in Palestine, but various places around the world. Both modules are very informative and provide a deep understanding of the origin and the nature of peace and development studies.
What I particularly like is that we are exposed to a variety of perspectives, which helps in developing our critical and creative thinking skills. This has helped me to see my own situation differently, and to see new solutions to the conflict. Lecturers are also very concerned with developing students’ ability to engage with the materials we are studying, and to contribute to other students’ understanding of the materials by contributing our different perspectives.
The programme has provided me with effective tools to take my community work to a new level. Through comparing case studies, joining both the theoretical and practical studies, I’ve already gained many skills that will make my work more targeted and professional. Palestine has been in a development trap because of the ongoing conflict and, helped by what I have learned on my course in terms of development and peacebuilding, I hope to create a platform that will contribute to ending this trap, and to the peace process in the country.
For my research dissertation, I will examine the role of foreign aid in enhancing development in Palestine, and the obstacles that hinder development. Central to this will be a comparative study of different agencies that operate in Palestine. Through my research, I aim to be able to provide clear recommendations that aid agencies will be able to use to improve the efficiency of their work.
I believe that, despite the many political obstacles, cooperation between local organisations and international agencies can lead to targeted projects that enhance development and empower people. My hope is that Palestine will become a better place, while also preserving the traditions I value. I want to be a part of this development and contribute to it, and then I hope to one day to be able to share my skills and experiences internationally.
My experience of Ireland has been that it is very welcoming, and the people are very kind. My previous experiences in other European countries made me think that wearing the Hijab would always make me unwelcome, but since my arrival in Ireland I have felt welcomed and accepted by everyone. As a student, I’ve found it very easy to adjust to the lifestyle here – the accommodation, the language, and everything else. The beauty of Irish nature makes each day here worth living, whether it is sunny, windy, rainy, or all three of these at the same time! I feel at home here.