Tabarak is set on becoming a journalist.
When I met her at the Za’atari Refugee Settlement in Jordan, the 16-year-old told me she watches the news more than any other TV program. Tabarak is passionate about telling stories.
She reminded me of myself, at her age.
Except, when I was 16, I was in high school, writing for my school newspaper, and scoping out which university would be best for me to get a journalism degree. Tabarak has gaps in her education after escaping the war in Syria. Our experiences are worlds apart, except for our love of journalism.
“I have a message to all the students,” she told me. Knowing I’m a communications officer with World Vision, she was intent on sharing her story. “Never give up on your dream despite any situation whatsoever. They should read and work hard,” she said.
Tabarak’s words have stuck with me. So, let’s talk about girls’ education. In times of crisis, girls are 2.5 times more likely to be out of school than boys. For many of them, like Tabarak, getting back to their education offers a path to a hopeful future.
Tabarak’s path back to education wasn’t easy. When she arrived at Za’atari Refugee Camp, five years ago, she had already been out of school for a year. After uprooting from her home and leaving family members behind, Tabarak said she had “lost interest” in furthering her education. Until, that is, she was given the opportunity to get back into a classroom.
“I realized that education is my only chance to success,” she said.
Having supportive women around her helped, too. “My mom is my idol in this life because she encourages me,” said Tabarak. “As we know, family is the main foundation to society...especially if the mother is educated. She will pass her education to the children, which will make them endure the hard times.”
When I ask her about some of the hard times she endured in Syria, Tabarak got teary-eyed.
She took a moment to herself before she pulled out her notebook. Then she read out a beautiful passage she’d written about her life in Syria compared to her life at the camp.
Our home in Za’atari
How did our home used to be?
It used to be big and spacious.
It became only two rooms.
One living room and one bedroom.
The kitchen was big and spacious.
It became a small kitchen.
The school was big. It became small.
Thank God, we’re alive.
When she put down the notebook, she could see me wiping tears from my own eyes.
“Can you read that again for us, on camera?” I asked.
Tabarak nodded and followed me and a World Vision videographer to a quiet spot outside, down the street from her home. She glanced once more at the paper and then put it on the ground.
“Oh, don’t put it down, we would like you to read that for us,” I said, gesturing to her notebook.
“I don’t need it. I’ve memorized it,” she said proudly.
This girl is made to be a journalist.
Tabarak’s determination will stay with me forever. I know what it feels like to have a burning desire to tell stories for a living. I hope with all my heart that she also has the honour of doing it professionally one day.