Ameera Harouda
1,068,544 views • 8:38

Hello. This is my first trip, first time in life I'm outside of the walls of Gaza. I'm so happy to be here.

(Applause)

My ambition always was to be a pilot, to fly a plane, to feel free to fly the sky, to touch the sky. But that didn't happen. Simply, I live in Gaza, there is no airport. All borders are closed on every side. We live in one of the biggest prisons in the world. The only thing I can do is just to look up to the sky. On some days, we are lucky if we have electricity for four or five hours. When it's cold, we make a fire on the front or on the roof of our homes. Sometimes we make food, too.

My job in Gaza is to arrange everything for journalists who come to my homeland to tell the stories about what's going on in Gaza. Many mornings, I had to go to the border area to collect a journalist. If anything should happen to the journalist, or if the journalist decides to cover a story the government doesn't want us to cover, bad things could happen.

Navigating through my country helping journalists, filmmakers, news crews, is my working life. I believe my success comes from building a relationship not only with journalists and the news crews, but also with the communities in the Gaza Strip. These communities who don't want their stories to be told, I never looked to them as stories or numbers. But like me, they are human beings.

I have built up many relationships over 10 years. And guess what? This gives me the chance to get access to people, to stories that others can't. In some certain situations, I feel, as a woman, I have more power. Many male journalists in my society, they want to cover a story about drug addiction in my country. That problem started when the Gaza tunnel was being built. With the siege on Gaza, tunnels brought people all the basic needs like food, building material, other stuff we needed. But not anymore, because the Egyptian side flooded them up with water and they are not working anymore. Drugs were being smuggled, and many young people got addicted, too. In the tradition of the Palestinian society, it's forbidden for men to enter the household. So, no male journalists get the story. But I did.

I have a wonderful husband, a wonderful husband who supports me despite all the criticism he gets from the society. He's at home now with my two kids, and I have another one that's growing in here.

(Applause)

When I'm working, I call him every two hours, and he knows if he doesn't hear from me, he should call my contact, the one who gives me access to the story, which is the one who I trust.

One of the times in Gaza, during the kidnapping of the British journalist Alan Johnston, I was asked by an American magazine to set up a meeting with the kidnappers in Gaza, and I did. The journalist covering the story and I were asked to meet outside of his hotel. They came, they picked us up in a black van with black windows, they were wearing masks on that day. And they drove us away, far away in the middle of a field. They took our cell phones and we did the interview with the kidnapper outside in that field. I was so scared that day, a day I will never forget.

So, why do I do what I do? I do it because I believe if I didn't, a huge part of the story about Gaza will be missing. There are some more stories I could tell you about my country. And not all of them are bad. I love my country, despite the terrible situation we live in — siege, poverty, unemployment — but there is life. There are people who are dreamers and amazing people full of energy. We have wonderful music, and a great music school. We have parkour dancers who dance in the rubble of their homes. And Gaza is the only place in the Arab world where Muslims and Christians live in strong brotherhood.

(Applause)

During the time of war, the hardest part for me is leaving the house early in the morning, leaving my children. I take a picture of them everyday because I never know if I will make it back to them. Being a fixer and a journalist is difficult and dangerous in Gaza. But when I hear the sound of the shelling or the sound of the bombing, I just head straight toward it, because I want to be there first, because these stories should be told.

When my children were small and we heard the sound of the war, I used to tell them that they were fireworks. Now they are older, they understand. I do have terrible nightmares because of all that I witnessed during war times, especially these lifeless bodies of young children. I still remember a little girl, her name is Hala. She's the only survivor from her family. Her picture will be with me forever. I will never forget her.

I'm proud that I can stand here and be here today with you. I'm proud that I can tell you stories, sad and happy, stories about my small corner of the world, Gaza. I'm proud that I am the first female fixer working in Gaza. And the funny thing is they call me Mr. Rambo in Gaza.

(Laughter)

I hope one day, I will get the chance to tell the stories of all other women, all other amazing women I know in my country. I hope that one day I can help other women in my country to be fixers like me. And of course sometimes, I feel I can't do this work anymore, it's just too much for me. But I remember these words: "Don't limit your challenge, but challenge your limit. Don't allow others to stand in front of your dreams."

Thank you.

(Applause)