Reaching for the Dream
This blog post is from Ruwwad 2012 Annual Report.
“I was a freshman at the Law Unit at a university in Karak, a governorate two and a half hours away from Amman. I struggled financially and was a step away from dropping out. The thought of quitting my dream of becoming a successful lawyer left me heartbroken. My mother took me to a community meeting held at a community foundation where they had invited guest speakers from the then newly established organization in Jabal Al Natheef, Ruwwad. We were told that Ruwwad provided scholarships to students in need and that the session would provide information about the steps needed to complete the application. There were no more than ten of us attending the session, mostly young students. The speakers talked to us about the importance of self-development and the role of education in developing both the individual and the society at large. They also asked us to join as volunteers in their community organizing programs and activities, and for the first time I felt there was someone looking me in the eye and telling me that I can play a role in shaping the outcomes in my own surroundings, community, and, most importantly, my own life. I think most of us were inspired by the discussion because we all signed up as volunteers before applying for scholarships.
My first visit to Ruwwad after the informative session was life changing. I had been living in a state of desperation, ready to give up on my dream of earning a law degree. No one in my community saw the extent of my desperation; people told me I had no options given my difficulties. They told me I should just get a job and forget about university. I was losing faith in people.
But when I went to Ruwwad I felt that dropping out was not an option. They encouraged me to hold on and we started looking at all available opportunities together. They would check on me and ask me if I was still attending classes to the point that I felt I would one day find them at the university gate just to make sure I was still going. They always gave me the feeling that they were there working just for me; I had their full attention. The level to which they were committed to seeing me succeed was humbling and it restored my faith in people and in my abilities to persevere.
Ruwwad came at a time when our community and our culture allowed little space for dialogue, self-expression, or organizing. Ruwwad was instrumental in my development in so many ways. Like many of my peers, I had navigated my life with uncertainty, lack of confidence, mistrust, and a sense of hopelessness.
In the beginning, when I attended Ruwwad’s events, I would sit in the back of the room and not say a word despite the ideas that came rushing to me. Now, I am a lawyer at one of the top five firms nationwide, and my peers will point at me as an example for being outspoken, bold, and forthright.
All my colleagues from Ruwwad are now holding some of the most competitive positions in their fields, and some are even being sought after from businesses and organizations outside of Jordan. This is not only because they were able to complete their studies successfully, but rather because of the personal growth we gained through Ruwwad’s programs. I know for a fact that most of the people who are in similar positions to mine and my Ruwwad peers are five to ten years older than us.
Ruwwad gave us a good jumpstart in life that placed us ahead of others who may have had more resources than we did. Programs such as Dardashat exposed me to ideas that had never crossed my mind, I learned to discuss and debate with confidence.
Through Ruwwad we met many people to whom we had no access before. We attended conferences and forums and were encouraged to voice our views and opinions. We conversed with legal experts and had a better understanding of our rights and responsibilities as citizens. We met government officials and had the chance for our voice to be heard, and to see our voice translate into actual results that benefited our community. Because we had such unprecedented exposure, we also felt we had a responsibility to our community to bring their voice forward and hence made a bigger effort to speak and understand the struggles of all different categories of our community. It was like building a house, brick by brick, and room by room, every room that was finished hosted more people who participated in building the next room.
As females, the norms of our culture do not award us the same liberties as those of males. We are discouraged from going out, mixing or travelling with our male peers. But just as Ruwwad helped us develop ourselves, they also managed to engage our families, each member in his or her own way and for his or her own interests, so that our parents and elderly were also on a path to change. Children were learning at the library, mothers were taking literacy or sewing classes, youth were learning, debating, advocating, and growing. And all the while, there is an ongoing dialogue amongst us all. Now, instead of telling me, “Don’t go out so much, you’re a girl,” my mother says, “Wait for me, let us go together.” We are all engaged in collective learning.”