Lama Alsafi: 00:01 Hello and welcome to 15 Minutes to Change the World. Where in 15 minutes you can learn a bit more about the world and how you can help change it. My name is Lama Alsafi standing in for Kasia Souchen as host of this podcast.
According to the UN refugee agency, UNHCR Jordan is one of the countries most affected by the Syria crisis hosting the second highest share of refugees per capita in the world. Jordan is home to nearly 800,000 of the world’s refugees when CARE Canada Ambassador Annie Murphy and her mother travelled to Azraq refugee camp in Jordan with CARE earlier this fall. They met many girls and women whose stories of survival were both unimaginable and inspiring. Asma was one such girl.
Lama Alsafi: 01:29 Asma at 17 is the eldest of nine children. After the conflict in Syria broke out, Asma and her family fled their home to seek refuge in the Azraq refugee camp in Jordan. Not all refugees in Jordan live in the Azraq refugee camp, but roughly 36,000 of them do and nearly 22% of refugees in Azraq are under five years old. Here families fight for a better life and a brighter future for their children. While visiting Azraq, CARE Canada Ambassador Annie Murphy was invited by Asma and her two younger sisters to visit their modest home in the camp to meet their mother, father and six other siblings.
Annie Murphy: 02:06 What a talented family you’ve got going on guys.
Translator: 02:10 There’s more, there’s more.
Annie Murphy: 02:11 Oh my gosh, thank you.
Lama Alsafi: 02:23 As they sat down together, Asma’s family shared a bit more of their story of hope and survival with Annie. At Azraq CARE provides TaeKwonDo lessons for boys and girls in the camp as a way of building self-esteem and providing the girls with a feeling of security while building their confidence. Asma takes TaeKwonDo lessons at the sports centre in the refugee camp. Her mom shared, Asma was 14 going on 15 when she signed up. The first thing the coach said was that she was a bit older than the usual female participants and allowing my daughter to sign up was a bit unusual because not many mothers let their daughters sign up when they’re that old.
Lama Alsafi: 03:08 Asma has been training for two and a half years now and is one exam away from the TaeKwonDo black belt. Once she turns 18 her dream is that she will become a trainer for other girls in the camp to learn TaeKwonDo. Asma was also the first girl in the camp to ride a bicycle. Riding bikes was considered to be exclusively a boys activity, but despite bullying and ridicule, Asma forged a path for many other girls to follow in her footsteps. Asma needs to ride a bike to get to her TaeKwonDo classes. I’m the only girl my age at the camp who rides a bike Asma said, all the other girls ride a bike are under 13. It’s a long walk between school and my TaeKwonDo classes and my house, so my brother started teaching me how to ride a bike at night before we got electricity at the camp. There’s no transportation at the camp and I need to get to my TaeKwonDo class, Asma continued despite facing societal pressure Asma is breaking stereotypes for all women and girls in the camp. It wasn’t an easy decision for Asma’s parents.
Lama Alsafi: 04:24 Your father deep down, didn’t want to say no, but there was the societal pressure said Asma’s mother. I convinced him by talking about the lack of other transportation options in the camp and sports centres far. I didn’t want to hold her back after all she’s achieved in TaeKwonDo. Asthma doesn’t let other people bring her down. She explains, I get a lot of comments from people, but I ignore them all. I don’t take their comments into account when I’m free and happy riding my bike. Asma’s parents are proud of their daughter and her many accomplishments. It’s a wonderful feeling said Asma’s mother, I wish I had ridden a bike growing up. If I could go back in time, I would ride too. Having equal opportunity to ride a bike was a life-changing experience for Asma.
Lama Alsafi: 05:21 As Asma smiled, she said, when I ride the bike, I feel so wonderful. It’s as if I’m happily flying, as if I have all this freedom. Just like the birds that fly. It’s a beautiful feeling with all Asma has accomplished her ambitions continue to grow. When she grows up, she hopes to become a pediatrician. Girls like Asma are fighting for a better future for themselves, their families and their communities. CARE works to build a community of support for girls like Asma around the world because we know that when we get together for her future, we unleash waves of change that will continue to grow for generations to come. To see more stories of empowered girls who are leading the way in their communities, like Asma head to our website at care.ca.
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