Sweet herbal scents gently touch my face when I slowly approach the entrance door to meet with the headmaster. My colleagues and I take seats as she greets all of us one at a time and offers us warm Jordanian coffee flavoured with wild herbs and roses. She talks to us about the school, its values and principles, its activities, the different things the girls are learning and her hopes and aspirations for the future.
We moved to a different room where we were greeted by a group of enthusiastic and zealous young girls aged from 10 to 15. They were excited to meet a bunch of adults from many countries and at the same times they were nervous and shy. They wanted to impress us and be the best students they have ever been. But we were impressed already by how much they knew and how dedicated they were to the issues and problems of their societies, which I am certain didn’t mean a great deal to me when I was their age.
My visit to Al-Qadisia School for girls in Amman was not only marked by the many girls I got to meet and speak to, but also by the ways these girls were taught and disciplined. An early 9 am class starts with a patriotic national disciplinary exercice that comprises singing of national songs and hymns, physical exercises and other morning rituals to foster the girls’ patriotism and loyalty and love to the King and the system.
I then got to witness one of the activities the girls had learned. They formed 3 groups and each group randomly chose a problem to solve through arts. The group I was assigned to had chosen to tackle the issue of domestic violence and acted it out through mime. They acted out the violent irresponsible and careless father, the scared weak wife, and the innocent crying children. They knew what patriarchy meant and how it worked and they clearly and brilliantly advocated for equality in the household. They were so brave and knowledgeable I could only stand up and clap as I saw the smiles on their tired faces.
These young people are without a doubt, the future, the entire future, the future of Jordan, the Middle East, and the entire world, the leaders who will bravely and unhesitantly stand up against domestic violence, gender inequalities, early marriage and female genital mutilation. They are the advocates of a just and equal society where respect is given to everyone by everyone. However, The question I had in mind and still am unsure about its answer, is whether these bright young girls are given the chance to think freely, to reflect independently on what they see as right or wrong, to learn the things they have a passion for, and to develop their critical thinking without the boundaries of politics and systems. The knowledge they are given which, although generally important, might nevertheless be misleading. This question is certainly not an easy one, not in Jordan, not anywhere else. But the fact that the world is changing, that female leaders are now taking positions of leadership, shaping politics, revolutionizing education, and defending the underdog brings enough hope, just enough to survive this global mess a little longer.