My own experience in preparing two reports with Journalists for Human Rights 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, in order educate people about their rights, which is the biggest role we as journalists can play.
My first report, “Tourism, a reason for the high rates of high school dropout in Petra”, addressed a problem that has plagued the village of Umm Sihon in Petra district for many years. Dropping out of school has been a major issue in a region where tourism is the main source of income for most of its residents and a magnet for those who drop out of school in Petra. Despite the studies conducted on the causes of the problem and the recommendations made to reduce the phenomenon, there is a misconnection between theory and practice on the ground, which is demonstrated the results of the report with a 54% increase of the numbers of dropouts.
The report highlighted the role of the Dropouts Center in reducing the problem of dropping out after years of opening the center. It also shed light on the possibilities it offers to attract dropouts and help them return to school, if their age allows, or to complete their studies through the center. There are three schools in the village of Umm Sihon, but they suffer from high rates of dropouts compared to all the other schools of Petra district. The area is the most geographically close to the city of Petra, therefore most of the dropouts work there.
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 about the importance of education for their children and the impact of child labor in tourism. The goal of the Center is to qualify dropouts for vocational training and to provide them with the necessary cognitive skills.
The teaching style adopted by the Dropouts Center 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. Also, the friendship between the dropouts and their teachers inside and outside the center has contributed, albeit modestly, to reducing the problem of dropout.
However, efforts among officials, civil society organizations, and parents continue to play a major role in effectively reducing the dropout rate. It is crucial to revisit the reasons for the continued dropping out from school up until now.
In my second report, “When the Marital Status becomes a Burden on Women,” interviews were held with separated women and widows with children who spoke about their situation and the economic and social challenges they face in a society dominated by masculinity. A power stronger than the rule of law, which is the authority of customs and traditions has restricted them and limited their freedom.
Among these women, who preferred not to be mentioned, a divorced young lady talked to me about the situation she had experienced. She was a victim of domestic violence in front of her children before her divorce, which once sent her to the hospital with a serious injury. 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 told how all these struggled made her three children nervous and violent.
What struck me in the story of this particular lady 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 and become a body without spirit only for the sake of her children; just to make sure they don’t live away from their father, who actually was indifferent to them despite his son’ illness. 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 in situations like 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 get rid of this retrograde stereotype of women in our society. It is essential to tackle this issue so women can take their natural and actual 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, as you try to get them to voice their struggles and raise their awareness of their rights, especially in issues related to women.