The Culture and Free Thought Association (CFTA) was established in 1991 as an independent, secular non-governmental development organization which, in emergency situations, also provides humanitarian assistance. CFTA is unique in its grassroots origins and orientation.  We aspire to nurturing new generations of Palestinians capable of giving, sharing, and taking responsibility for themselves, one another, and their communities.

For over 20 years, CFTA has worked in the middle and southern areas of the Gaza Strip to provide safe, supportive, interactive spaces and opportunities for members of our community to explore and experiment; to build knowledge and skills; to exchange ideas, experiences and expertise; and to connect and create with others. We work to provide a diverse and dynamic range of activities and programs initiated by and for our constituents – whether male or female, child or adult – to discover and strengthen their abilities to learn and to act both independently and collectively  and to contribute to the cultural life of their peers, their local communities and their society more broadly.

Our roots

CFTA is an idea born of conversations between five Palestinian women activists with a long history of political and social activism. The conversations began over twenty years ago when the First Intifada, which began in December 1987, had entered its third year. Violence perpetrated by the Israeli occupation forces began to reflect on children's behavior, academic achievement and psychological status. How, we asked,   could we protect our children and help them to learn, grow and thrive in a healthy environment despite the incredibly difficult circumstances? We wanted to create a safe, caring place for kids away from the formal atmosphere in the school, the hard setting on the streets, and the complex conditions at home. In other words, we wanted to create a space where each child finds an outlet for her/his energies and creativity and a safe environment to play with friends. From this simple idea and a strong dose of shared and passionate commitment to its realization, CFTA’s first center, Al Shruq Wal Amal (Sunrise and Hope) was born in 1991.

 CFTA today

Today, nearly 25 years since its establishment, CFTA’s programs have grown in directions we could never have imagined. We now work through five community centers to provide cultural, educational, health and well-being services designed to support the healthy development of individuals and communities. With two children’s centers, Al Shruq Wal Amal Center  in Khan Younis Refugee Camp and Al Nowwar Educational Center in Baten Essamien neighborhood of Khan Younis, CFTA remains the only major Palestinian NGO in the southern Gaza Strip working directly with children between the ages of 6 to 12.

In addition, we have a center for adolescents, Bunat Il Ghad (Builders of the Future), CFTA's Cultural Center in Al-Amal neighborhood of Khan Younis, and a Women's Health Center in Bureij Refugee Camp.

Where we work

While the scope of our work has expanded to meet the changing times and aspirations of our people, CFTA remains committed to focusing its work in the communities where we live in Khan Younis and surrounding communities of the southern Gaza.

The Association operates in an area under Israeli military occupation, political division and high poverty rates. In particular, the Israeli-imposed military closure and the resulting  isolation of the Gaza Strip from the rest of the Palestinian community and the world at large, has left the Gaza Strip, especially the southern area, with severe economic, health, and educational challenges and fed  new socio-cultural conditions characterized by a rise in conservatism, lack of community participation, and new internal problems.

Who we work with and for

CFTA’s programs are designed for children, adolescents, youth, and women with a special focus on marginalized and underprivileged groups in communities across the middle and southern Gaza Strip.

How we work – our core values

  • CFTA is committed, through the fulfillment of its vision and mission, to the following core values:
  • Promoting Palestinian cultural identity.
  • Promoting human rights principles including equity, equality, accountability, rule of law, transparency, tolerance, respect, non-discrimination, participation and empowerment to vulnerable groups with special attention to gender mainstreaming.
  • Promoting environmental protection

 Our resources

CFTA’s 19-member strong General Assembly (11 women and 8 men) includes academics and leaders from development, rights and women’s non-governmental organizations. It meets annually to review CFTA’s programs and progress. Every four years it elects a new board of directors.

CFTA elected Board of Directors currently consists of six women and one man. 

CFTA’s team includes a 60-member strong staff (65% women). Our team also includes 22 volunteers (of whom 15 are women). Together our team represents a wealth of expertise and experience in fields as diverse education, communication, community development and mobilization, health, sports, arts and culture, counseling, psychosocial support, media, advocacy, management, and finance.

CFTA’s annual budget averages roughly $1.6 million.

Our partners and allies

In order to meet our objectives, CFTA works with a large variety of partners and within a number of networks in the Gaza Strip, across Palestine, and internationally. The forms of cooperation include financial support, service referrals, and joint advocacy efforts. CFTA's partners with a range of civil society organisations specialized in human rights, women’s issues, culture and development. NGO networks in Palestine and in the Arab world allow us to share knowledge and know-how and to work collaboratively within and  beyond the Gaza Strip. Our partners also include the Ministries of Education, Social Affairs, Interior, Youth and Sports, Women Affairs, and Health, as well as municipalities and governorates. Service providers, such as universities, government and UNRWA schools, and hospitals, are other important local partners. Finally, bilateral and multilateral development and humanitarian agencies provide funding and capacity building support.