The Fragile Seven Series
Part 1. Hadeel, Syria
Seven examples of countries in crisis. Seven girls, coming of age amidst unthinkable circumstances. They share a common courage, in the face of danger and deprivation. And they share something else: an urgent need for education. For all vulnerable children – especially, girls – education offers a lifeline to safety for today and hope for the future tomorrow.
“But then the war happened.” The words have been uttered by countless children across history. As listeners, we brace for the worst.
And that ‘worst’ is something millions of Syrian children have lived through. It’s impossible to quantify all that now lies in tatters, under the rubble of their home communities.
Education is one of those things. For girls especially, this loss is like nothing else. Without an education, a girl is robbed an opportunity to reach her full potential. As her opportunities die, so too can her spirit. Yet, with an opportunity her voice and power can grow.
“I was in kindergarten in Syria,” says 11-year-old Hadeel, remembering her young childhood back home before the war. “I was so excited to start grown-up school. But then the war happened, and I had to come here.”
As a refugee, Hadeel became a six-year-old speck in Jordan’s massive Zaatari Refugee Camp. She lived among 45,000 people, when first arriving with her mother and sisters.
“I didn’t know anyone,” says Hadeel. “It was muddy. There were tents all over.”
In a crowded camp, teeming with strangers, patches of safety are few. A girl who needs water must navigate amongst hundreds of closely pitched shelters, into the shadows and away from those who love her. Sexual abuse is a constant threat.
Hadeel sits down on the steps of her newly constructed school building funded by the Government of Canada.
That’s where education can shine a light for girls living in crisis. Not only does learning prepare girls for their futures – schools offer a safe place and critical protection for today. Trained, caring, qualified teachers offer girls the safety they’ve been forced to leave behind.
Today, Hadeel is going to school outside the camp, where her family now lives with an uncle. Education has helped this bright, deeply thoughtful girl step into a different future. Hadeel, now thriving, has caught up on four years of missed learning.
“The first time I entered my class, I was so nervous and quiet,” she remembers. “But then, slowly, I started to take part in classroom discussions.”
Hadeel in her new classroom.
That tentative voice is growing stronger by the day, as Hadeel asks questions, offers opinions, and stands up for her rights. Like the girl who’s speaking, the voice that was once overpowered by the sounds of bombs, is flexing its muscles in confidence for whatever lies ahead.
Hadeel is able to attend school thanks to NOUR, a Global Affairs Canada funded project in Jordan that supports education, child protection and economic resilience for Syrian refugees and Jordanians.
Does Hadeel’s story speak to you? Then speak up! As the G7 Summit approaches, let the government of Canada know that you want them to invest in education for girls in crises by signing our petition
so that all girls have the chance to shape their own futures.