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I am Nabila, I am strong

02 August 2019, Action for Change

Around the world, girls are tackling stereotypes by doing what they love

“Not only do children learn from adults. Adults learn from children too. There are things that adults don’t know that children must tell them.”

Wise beyond her 13 years, Nabila* is clear about what she stands for. 

She has the sincerity to leave you in no doubt that she means every word she says. When you smile at her, she smiles back widely and you remember you’re talking to a 13-year-old who has earned her wisdom in ways she shouldn’t have had to.

“I am not afraid,” she says proudly. “I once went on a mission to raise awareness about child marriage. Some people were responsive and others weren’t. It’s not always easy.”

“I shouldn’t give up. I have to keep going. If I go out to raise awareness and the person doesn’t let me speak and shuts the door, I shouldn’t stop talking. I have to knock again and try one more time. They might begin to understand. Some will even start going with you. You have to be very self-confident in order to accomplish your mission.”

The short video below provides a glimpse into what playing football can do for a child’s confidence and how girls like Nabila (who features in the film) are tackling stereotypes and achieving their goals by kicking them.

Strength from adversity

Forced to leave their home in Syria in 2013 because of the conflict, Nabila and her family now live in Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan. Home to more than 80,000 refugees, Za’atari has become more like a city than a camp – with its own neighbourhoods, roads and markets. 

Nabila’s memories of Syria are of a time living in constant fear. She remembers not being able to leave school until the bombing had stopped. “We were scared. Life in Syria was scary,” she remembers. “Sometimes, I feel like I’m still in Syria and I still live in fear because whenever something happens there, it touches me too.”

“Some people cannot forget what happened to them in Syria and this is why they still live in fear. They should go out, blend into society and work on improving themselves. They should make new friends and try to adapt to the lifestyle here.”


A voice for youth

Nabila is a natural campaigner. She has a single-minded determination to make the world a better place for children. She thinks deeply, speaks her mind and speaks it clearly. She’s a strong advocate for protecting children from violence, for making sure education is readily available and for changing outdated customs regarding child marriage. 

“I was able to convince an old man that child marriage can damage a young girl. That a woman has to be mature enough to raise a child. A child cannot raise another.  He was hesitant at first, then he started listening to me and he spread the word to his family, friends and neighbours. He wanted to stop every girl from getting married before the legal age.”

For Nabila, education is key. She understands the power it can provide. That with an education, a girl’s world opens. 

“Education is a woman’s weapon,” she says. “I wish for everyone to pursue their education because it’s a beautiful thing, it can teach us so many things.”

“If I could change anything in the world, it would be access to education. I would make it better and available for everyone, because everyone needs to learn in order to have their future in their own hands.” 

Safe you, Safe me

Save the Children provides a number of programs for children and families living in Za’atari refugee camp. ‘Safe you, Safe me’ is run for girls and boys aged between 8 and 18. 

The program is designed to build children’s courage and inner strength, to empower and protect children affected by conflict and violence. 

One way it does this is through football. 

“I like playing football because it makes me feel good.” Nabila says. “I always get excited when I’m about to play.”

“When I came here, there weren’t any kids. When the field was ready, I went with my siblings and played there. I really like football and some of my girlfriends like it too, but there are girls who don’t play because they think it’s a game for boys.”

Nabila is not the kind of character to let such perceptions dissuade her. She loves the mateship in sport and how it can help build character. Save the Children’s involvement with sport is helping children – and importantly girls – to recognise their strengths and to find their voice. 

*Name changed to protect identity.

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