Tuesday, June 8, 2010
Women and Children
This morning we were invited to a meeting held by Riath (a friend and leader of a local NGO) and Dr. Bader al-Qayd in a remote village West of Sabha only feet from the Syrian border. The women of the area had gathered together to learn about democratic political involvement particularly in the scheduled parliamentary elections of this coming November. Dr. Bader and Riath’s lecture encouraged the women to vote in line with their personal views rather than simply voting according to what their tribes or even husbands supported.
Although Jordan’s political system is leagues ahead of the rest of the Middle East, democracy is still a budding concept here. To see these hijabed Bedouin women gather in a sweltering shack filled with flies to learn about voting was inspiring. Like many American women I know, they are concerned about their communities and want their families’ needs represented in government. One of the women present was the first parliamentary candidate from this region. She came to support and educate her countrywomen. The discussion was in Arabic, so I obviously had some trouble understanding everything. Nonetheless, I sensed that I was witnessing something important.
After the meeting, we strengthened some existing contacts and forged a new one with Ahmed, a representative of an Amman based NGO. Ahmed’s work focuses on human and women’s rights issues. Hopefully we can line up some work with his organization for students next year and possibly even this summer.
Our Rouda’s graduation ceremonies were held today. The Rouda is the UN-funded pre/elementary school that our home base NGO manages. Our young English students performed the dances they’ve been practicing for weeks (including my personal favorite in which the boys, decked out in military apparel and toy machine guns, fire into the crowd in a show of patriotic, albeit violent, fervor). This time they did so in front of sheikhs, government officials, military leaders, and a sea of family members. This graduation was unlike anything I’ve seen in the States. Aside from the several giant posters of King Abdullah II on the walls, the chaotic nature of the whole event made it exotic. At any given moment, the person addressing the crowd probably only possessed ten percent of the attention in the room. Everyone was so noisy and distracted! It was fun to watch.
One moment during the graduation ceremony was particularly memorable. An exceptionally religious-looking man, complete with beard, thob, and skullcap, picked up his little daughter and hugged and kissed her repeatedly after she had received her diploma. His barrage of smiles and congratulations undoubtedly communicated his love for her and showed her how important her education is to him.