At We Love Reading, one of our core values is women’s empowerment.
At We Love Reading, one of our core values is women’s empowerment. We support the development of women leadership within the community by training local women as reading ambassadors and encouraging them to change their community as leaders and social entrepreneurs. We challenge them to critically examine their environment, identify problems and create solutions. Our program provides agency and purpose for the women in refugee camps, allowing them to take some control over their lives in the camp, and it encourages parents to send their girls to school in areas where girls are frequently left out due to culture, work, safety, and ignorance.
WLR is dedicated to empowering women in the Arab world and beyond, and we’ve participated in a number of conferences including the Global HerStory Summit in New York and the Women’s Socio-economic Empowerment Conference in Amman to learn more about how we can further support women in the world.
WLR under the Patronage of Taghyeer organization has implemented several projects geared towards young girls in Jordan. You can read more about our “Empower Her,” “Be You,” and “A Story of a Picture” projects below.
The “Empower Her” Project
The “Empower Her” Project was a project designed to positively impact girls between the ages of 14 and 16 by empowering girls to become community leaders and change-makers, and by creating a generation of females that love, respect, and believe in themselves.
With the support of LitWorld, WLR held two “Empower Her” workshops, one in 2014 and the other in 2015. These workshops took place in three stages: during the first stage, girls would work together to identify challenges facing young girls in Jordan. After the initial workshop, the girls would have two weeks to design a solution to the problem they had identified. They worked with mentors to create and submit proposals to a team of judges, who selected two winning proposals to test in the community. The girls were given 500JD and one month to enact their solutions. On the last day, participants, mentors, and advisors met to give feedback and hold a general discussion on lessons learned and challenges overcome.
The first “Empower Her” group consisted of 30 girls, who presented their solutions in July 2014. The winning proposals were, first, My Park, My Right, in which the girls chose to rehabilitate a run-down park in collaboration with the local community and the mayor’s office. They planned a series of reading sessions in the park, and wanted it to serve as a role model for other areas in Amman. The second proposal was My Arabic Language, focused around a desire to preserve the Arabic language and Arab identity in the face of globalization and the spread of English. They wrote a play to perform and film for a social media campaign, started an Arabic language book club, and designed t-shirts with slogans to sell for sustainability.
The second “Empower Her” group consisted of 27 girls who presented their solutions in June 2015. The first proposal was based around remedial courses for primary school students. The girls rented space to provide Arabic, math, and English remedial courses, and designed level exams for each child at the beginning and end of the project. The second proposal, entitled “My teacher let me down, My teacher is a friend,” centered around the relation between the teacher and the students. They interviewed teachers and students in Ajloun, and then met with the Headmistress of the school to arrange workshops for the teachers. They held 3 workshops on student-friendly teaching methods, and the teachers and students who attended created and signed a “document of agreement,” which they agreed to share with everyone at the beginning of the school year.
The “Be You” Project
We Love Reading launched the “Be You” Project in cooperation with LitWorld and GLOW in 2016. The “Be You” project targeted girls between the ages of 14 and 17, and focused on themes of empowerment, identity, and self-expression. With instruction from professionals from a variety of creative backgrounds, the project provided a unique opportunity for teenage girls to express themselves. They used their writing and drawing skills to compose short stories to express their own perspectives and definitions of some main aspects of life, including success, happiness, and family. These workshops also focused on the importance of respecting others and themselves, supporting each other, and understanding and respecting other points of view. Leila Jamal, a participant in the “Be You” project, said, “[The] Be You Project was amazing. I met new people and one of my dreams came true, which was meeting a professional writer. I learned how to talk properly, and during other sessions I learned and improved my drawing and writing skills. I became capable of drawing better and writing without having to change my ideas.”
The “A Story of a Picture” Project
Photography has historically been used by Western media to subject Syrian refugees, particularly women, to an imperialist lens that retracts their agency, and forces their stories into a standard narrative of victimhood. We Love Reading implemented the “A Story of a Picture” project to provide teenage girls in Za’atari Camp the opportunity to represent their lives and situations through their own photos, rather than through the lens of a foreign photographer.
The girls were trained in the basics of photography and story writing, and then were provided with cameras and instructed to take pictures of their surroundings, and write short stories about each picture. The photos and stories were all collected in a book and given to the girls at the end of the project.
The girls actively participated in the sessions, sharing their stories and becoming more comfortable interacting with each other as the project continued. One girl, Marwa, took a picture of the flowers in front of her caravan, to which Borooj, a 14-year-old participant, commented, “When we first came to Za’atari it was a desert, and so we began to plant many different types of plants. Just as we transformed the desert to green lands, we make Jordan our home. With this book we can show the world how the impossible became possible.”
“For the first time in my life, I feel as if I’m being useful to my community, and not just serving a specific group of people or a corporate.” Rana Sadaqa, Aqaba
Has a bachelors in psychology, but wasn’t able to use it/fulfil her potential; With the number of children rising in Rana’s reading sessions, the female’s part of the mosque became too crowded and this annoyed the women who prayed there. To solve this problem, Rana decided to build an extension to the mosque to serve as a library with the help of her family and the community. The by-products of WLR’s model has extended from spreading the love of reading to reviving the spirit of mosque as community centers rather than a place of worship by establishing a library in it.
“My husband opposed the idea of We Love Reading at first, but as I started having WLR sessions, he changed his mind and began to encourage me to continue…At the beginning of this experience, I was tentative and shy, but now the situation has changed and I have begun to feel much more comfortable and confident with the children.” Laila, Emirati Camp
“I loved to read and write as a child, but marriage and life got me busy and almost forgot about my passion for the written word. But volunteering with WLR has revived this passion inside me.” Asma’a Rashed, Zaatari Camp
Asma’a is 20 years old now and got married at 14 and has two children. “I loved to read and write as a child, but marriage and life got me busy and almost forgot about my passion for the written word. But volunteering with WLR has revived this passion inside me”. Shortly after, Asma’a started writing her own stories and a talented nephew has helped her illustrate those stories.
Za’atari magazine publishes pieces written by people in the camp. Asma’a has approached them to have her pieces published and they have agreed to publish her writings in a series, each piece in an issue. Not long after that, the magazine has offered Asma’a a training course in journalism and to actually pay her for her writings.
Asma’a still reads to the children in her neighborhood frequently. She has called her group, “Stories Children” and they do lots of activities together, like holding an event they have called, “Giving Sanitary Men a Break” where the children went out to clean the neighborhoods themselves. They also collect feedback papers from their parents on what they think of the reading sessions. Recently, two 10 and 9 year old girls who attend Asma’a’s reading sessions have started reading to the children in their neighborhoods too.
Asma’a at 20 is already fulfilling her potential and working for what she knows she was born to do. Asma’a has chosen to go out of her comfort zone and do something very new, which has opened doors for her and helped her fulfill her potential at the this young age.
“I married young so not to pursue further studies as I hated reading. I could have never imagined that one day, I’d establish my own library, and children would knock my door all the time because they want me to read them a story.” Nabeela Umm Ahmad, Amman
“The support that I have received from my family was phenomenal, especially from my husband, who never stopped encouraging me not only to read, but actually to get creative in the voluntary work I was doing.
“My three-year-old grandson Bader, inspired by the books we read on environmental issues, asks me to open the curtains to let the daylight pour into the room so we wouldn’t have to use electricity lightning and thus to save energy. The stories that I read to the children have helped illiterate kids learn how to read and write which aroused their mothers’ curiosity, who came to attend the reading sessions to know the secret beyond their children’s progress.
“The increasing number of children per reading session motivated me to start reading in other neighborhoods as well as mine. “
It is worth mentioning that Nabeela not only read aloud to children, but took the extra mile to actually establish a library with a variety of books at her house, which the neighborhood children could borrow whenever they please.
Abu Ahmad (Nabeela’s husband) says, “I’ve never encountered such enthusiasm and passion towards voluntary work in Nabeela before. I can see that volunteering with We Love Reading has unleashed the productivity and creativity in her soul”