Jordan

Serious fun at camps for girls

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Jordan/2004/Vergara
Girls at a youth camp in the historic city of Petra.

By Marc Vergara

PETRA, Jordan, 30 September 2004 – In 2002, UNICEF conducted a national survey among youth in Jordan. The result is Jordanian youth: Their lives and their views, an in-depth report detailing progress and issues for youth in Jordan.

UNICEF’s Adolescent Project Assistant Layali Abu-Sir explains some of the report’s findings: “As children in Jordan grow older, some doors begin to close, especially for the girls. The vast majority of the population under the age of 25 does nothing in their spare time.

“Girls go from school to home, and even if they make it to a university, doors close on them before they can earn a living. Boys have much more freedom in moving about, but find very little to do, as youth centres have so little to offer.”

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Jordan/2004/Vergara
Basketball is popular at the camp.

Fast-forward to a hot day in the historic city of Petra, where 50 girls aged 15 to 18 are attending a four-day youth camp organized by UNICEF and its partners. During these fun-filled days, the girls will get the opportunity to sing, socialize and participate in sports and games. Most important is the fact that they will have a chance to learn about themselves and how they can relate to their families, their friends and their communities.

All of the girls come from Jerash, in the north of Jordan. “Although they come from the same area and often the same school, it is the first time they really meet,” says Eman Al Haurani, a 21-year-old facilitator.

“In fact, that’s the whole point – to take them out of their normal environment. For most of them, it is the first time they leave home unaccompanied by their parents, who let them go because they know it is a place where their daughters are completely safe in every possible way.”

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Jordan/2004/Vergara
Participating girls are encouraged to express themselves through art.

It is striking to see how eager these girls are to speak, jump, laugh, sing and simply be themselves. In one play, a girl acts out the part of a mother complaining about her daughter not listening to her. The message, however, is that the mother herself is not listening to the daughter. Another girl plays the role of a doctor who does not even bother testing the eyesight of a young female patient asking for new glasses. Participants try on each other’s glasses and discover how vast the difference is from one girl to the next.

In its first phase between 2000 and 2003, the project reached 15,000 young people, well above the 9,000 targeted. The next phase is aims to reach 25,000 young people. Excellent word-of-mouth publicity from current and former participants means that this goal should easily be reached. But with the increased participation, the project needs an additional $1 million a year in funding.

 “It is not only a programme for the next generation of Jordanians,” says Layali Abu-Sir. “It is a programme for the present, because young people want to be active right now, not tomorrow.”


 

 

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30 September 2004: Video report on Jordan’s youth camp for girls.

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