Alumni Update: Azraq Refugee Camp, Jordan


Batoul Jaikat, Global UGRAD 2015-16, Jordan

Since I finished my Global UGRAD Program in the United States, many doors were opened for me. In a previous article I wrote about how the Global UGRAD experience changed my life through the smallest details. However, in this article I will be focusing on the voluntary aspect. Since my arrival home from the U.S. I have enrolled in many volunteer opportunities, most of which focuses on what I do best: self-defense. I had the chance to participate in and lead some self-defense workshops across Jordan. Last week, I delivered two self-defense workshops for women and young girls. But, in this article I will be talking about my experience delivering a self-defense workshop for Syrian female refugees in Azraq Refugee Camp in Jordan.

It was nothing like I expected. The camp was organized, the employees there were very friendly to us as well as the refugees. There were many women, girls, and children of all ages. I started by asking them “why should a girl learn how to defend herself?” As they all started giving me different answers, one woman answered “to be able to protect herself from any dangerous situation.” And that’s how it started.

We began by teaching them some basic self-defense techniques. After we were done with the 1.5 hour training, women and girls came to thank us and express how much they enjoyed the training and how they will practice the techniques daily and teach them to their cousins. I was so happy to hear that. We took some pictures together as well but I can’t share them with you because not all of them are okay with sharing their pictures. Then we drove to a different sector for another 1.5 hour of training. We started the same way and we had some volunteers from the audience who were excited to learn the techniques and to practice them with us.

Once I was done with the workshop I went to the employee’s office and waited for our ride to arrive. While waiting, I heard many heartbreaking stories about the exact same women I trained earlier that day. Many of them lost their children during war. Another one walked 21 days barefoot until she arrived to Jordan. Many of them of all ages, starting from 12 years old, suffered from rape and sexual harassment. However, I was still able to see their smiles during the training. It was a roller coaster of emotions for me. On the way home, I kept thinking about them and suddenly my problems were nothing compared to what they faced and have to face on a daily basis. How even in a small society like this camp, women are inferior and many of them are there just to give birth, take care of the children, and cook. Many of them are facing early marriage.

I am so thankful for this experience and I can relate it to my Global UGRAD experience as both of them showed me parts of the world I had never seen. I will keep doing what I am doing. I’ll keep empowering girls through self-defense until we see a world where women can shine above all obstacles.

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