By Zainab Faqeer, JHR Mentored Journalist in Jordan.
The below is a personal reflection written by Jordanian journalist Zainab Faqeer on her experience in being mentored to produce two human rights stories in JHR’s Jordan program.
Preparing two stories with Journalists for Human Rights (JHR) was a rich experience. It gave me a more comprehensive view of neglected or marginalized humanitarian issues that we, as journalists, need to investigate and follow up on in order educate people about their rights, which is the biggest role we as journalists can play.
My first story, “Tourism, a reason for the high rates of high school dropout in Petra“, covered a challenge that has plagued the village of Umm Sihon in the district of Petra for many years. Dropping out of school has been a major issue in the region where tourism is the main source of income for most of its residents. There are three schools Umm Sihon, but they suffer from high rates of dropout compared to other schools in the district of Petra. As the village is geographically close to the city of Petra, most of the dropouts leave school to work there. Despite the completion of studies on causes of the high dropout rates and the recommendations made to reduce the phenomenon, there is a misconnection between theory and practice on the ground. The report found that there was a 54% increase in the number of dropouts.
The story also highlighted possible solutions and the impact of Dropouts Centers that are working to reduce the high number of dropouts. The goal of the Centers is to qualify dropouts for vocational training and to provide them with the necessary cognitive skills. They offer programs to engage dropouts and help them return to school, if their age allows, or to complete their studies through the center.
After close follow-up, it was clear that efforts were being made by male and female teachers working in the Dropouts centers in the region, and activists who were keen to try to reduce school dropout and educate parents on the importance of education for their children and the impact of child labor in tourism.
The teaching style adopted by the Dropouts Centers seemed different from the school atmosphere. The educational and interactive methods and the extracurricular activities in which the dropouts were involved had an impact on their commitment to the center. In addition, the friendship between the dropouts and their teachers inside and outside the center has contributed, albeit modestly, to reducing the number of dropouts.
Efforts among officials, civil society organizations, and parents also continue to play a major role in effectively reducing the dropout rate. It will be crucial to revisit the reasons for the continued dropouts in future coverage.
In my second story, “When the Marital Status becomes a Burden on Women,” separated women and widows with children were interviewed. They spoke about their situation and the economic and social challenges they face in a society dominated by masculinity. In many cases, customs and traditions, which many believe are powers stronger than the rule of law, restricted them and limited their freedom.
Among these women, who preferred not to be named, was a divorced young woman who was a victim of domestic violence in front of her children that once sent her to the hospital with a serious injury when she was previously married. After the divorce, the authority was transferred to her brother who was harassing her, interfering in her life, and even pressuring her to relinquish custody of her children. She recounted how these struggles made her three children nervous and violent.
What struck me in the story of this particular woman was that she was ready to return to her ex-husband despite all the physical and verbal abuse she suffered, “just for the sake of her children” as she puts it. I then wondered how much a mother could sacrifice for the sake of her children to make sure they do not live away from their father. How long will women in our society remain the weakest link that must sacrifice always for the sake of the family?
Other women also opened up to me about what kind of insulting and humiliating commentary they would hear in their community after returning home late, for example, or if they start a friendship with their colleague at work.
In spite of the active feminist movement witnessed by our society in recent years, driven by civil society organizations and programs dedicated to empowering women in various governorates and educating them about their rights, there remains a great need to remove retrograde stereotype of women in our society. It is essential to tackle this issue so women can assume a respected and active role in society.
Living with the stories you write about and talking to people, whom sometimes see you as a glimmer of hope that can help them fix their situation, puts a great responsibility on your shoulders. You try to get them to voice their struggles and raise their awareness of their rights, especially in issues related to women.