Simon Balsom
Samira photo.
Fouad Choufany
11 October 2017

Drama’s value in a child’s education and its power for the improvement of life skills has long been recognised. In Lebanon today, the International Rescue Committee’s UNICEF-supported life skills through drama sessions forms a key element as one of the IRC’s focused psycho-support curricula. Through this, thanks to funding from the United Kingdom, they’re using life skills to equip adolescent girls with essential knowledge and skills to help them identify, mitigate, prevent and respond to gender based violence (GBV).

A dedicated program, offers girls aged between 11 and 18 twelve sessions aimed at addressing a range of topics including communication, decision making and self-esteem. It is empowering these girls to develop positive coping mechanisms and to build a secure peer group network in their community.

18-year-old Samira has been living in Lebanon for the past five years. Uprooted from her home in Syria, she was fortunate enough to arrive here with her family - yet she came with little else.

The composed, engaging and quietly-confident young lady we meet today – and now a mentor within the program - is a world away from the young girl who was compelled to cross the border half a decade earlier.

Shy, hesitant, and unwilling to trust those around her, Samira felt isolated and angry in her new home. “Growing up in Syria, I was outgoing – a typical young girl,” she tells us. “The crisis changed me. I lost my friends, I lost my home. I became hesitant and shy. I used to do whatever I could to avoid contact with anyone.”

Although at first reluctant, Samira was encouraged by her mother to join the drama sessions a neighbour was giving for adolescent girls. It was only after the mentor explained to her what the sessions were about, and what would be the topics they’d discuss, that she and her two sisters agreed to join the classes.

“I really liked the idea, I liked what they were doing, and I felt something change within me after just one session”, she recalls.

“At first, I made some friends among those at the drama sessions. Afterwards, I began to interact more with my neighbours. Little by little, I started to feel the need to know more about the people around me, about the people I met”.

She observed other girls benefiting in similar ways from the sessions.

 Reflecting, Samira tells us, “We all progressed, step by step. At the beginning, we were all shy - we didn’t participate as much as we knew we should. Slowly, we started to engage more.”

As the weeks and months passed and the program’s activities helped to break down barriers and bring the girls closer together, Samira continued to grow in confidence and, crucially, she witnessed the great degree of change brought about in others – now her friends – within the program. She became determined to increase her involvement, and volunteered to become a mentor herself.

The IRC’s life skills program creates a channel through which is inspired change from within. “And it has completely changed my life,” she says bluntly. “I use its skills everywhere I go. I feel that I became a totally different person after joining these sessions. Before them, I felt that life was over because I didn’t have any goals. After joining these sessions, I started to challenge myself and set many goals. Mentoring others is just one of these goals.”

Beyond the program, Samira has also participated in numerous other activities in her community - including a sewing course. Unthinkable without access to the life skills classes, a key event in her life through which she insists, “I became stronger and regained my self-confidence.”

In many ways, the IRC’s UNICEF-supported life skills through drama program is merely a beginning. For Samira, and others like her, it has provided her with the strength that would otherwise have passed her by. And for Samira in particular it has provided her with the courage to say, “As a mentor, I now want to go on and prove myself further. I want all girls I work with to benefit as I did while becoming stronger and able to cope with society”.

Samira photo with a UNICEF staff
Fouad Choufany