Sometimes, individuals need the opportunity to prove themselves, believe in themselves and unleash the leaders within them. The Leadership Programme aims to empower youth like 14-year-old Ritaj, a participant in the Programme’s ongoing sessions at the Prince Muhammad Youth Centre in Zarqa
Living in Zarqa with her family, Ritaj was always shy to participate in group activities or stand up in front of her classmates. Despite being a diligent student and curious learner, intimidation made her doubt her ability to shine and take leading roles. “The supervisor chose me among a group of girls because she believed I had something to offer. She wanted to help me develop our skills and overcome our fears,” she reflects.
Initially, she hesitated. Thanks to her mother’s support and the positive feedback from her brother and friend, both participants in the Leadership Programme, she decided to take the step. On top of that, she is the type of vibrant girl who likes to put her summer vacations to good use.
New Ideas… New Skills
Retaj went to the Prince Muhammad Youth Center in Zarqa to begin participating in the Leadership Programme’s ongoing sessions to build youth leadership and life skills. The Programme, where Ritaj found a new space for exploration and learning, is implemented in partnership between UNICEF Jordan, Generations For Peace, and the Ministry of Youth (MoY).
“Gender inequality, non-discrimination between the sexes, and various activities and questions about girls’ capabilities are all topics we discussed during the sessions. We continued to discuss these topics, what we agree with and disagree with, to come up with a common result that satisfied us all and brought us closer together,” Ritaj explains about the ongoing sessions.
The topics covered in the Leadership Programme expanded Ritaj’s perceptions of the world and changed the way she dealt with her surrounding environment as a female adolescent. She also developed new skills in dialogue and presenting ideas in front of others without fear of judgment.
“Some people will say that girls shouldn’t do normal things, like riding a bicycle. I disagree with them, and I have become able to voice my opinion about such topics convincingly. In the past, I did not know much about the issue of gender discrimination. Now I can talk about it confidently, and I have surprised many with my ability to speak up and open debates,” Ritaj continues.
This was not limited to her family. One of Ritaj’s teachers chose her to give a presentation on justice and equality in front of the class. “My classmates were surprised by my ability to stand and speak in front of them. They were happy with my ideas about women’s rights and felt that the topic resonated with their lives and reality. My teacher was also pleased with my performance,” she explains.
Ritaj is one of the 900 youth participants across Jordan in the ongoing sessions of the Leadership Programme. Through individual and group activities and learning exercises, the Programme has helped participants explore their leadership potential and boost their self-confidence and ability to adapt to various circumstances to take on leadership roles in all segments of Jordanian society.
The Starting Point
Although she initially doubted her abilities and even thought of dropping out due to her fear of public speaking, Ritaj now recognises that the Leadership Programme was a starting point that helped her explore her abilities and prepare her for university.
“What helped me continue was the sense of safety. The encouragement of the centre supervisors and members of my group every time I hesitated to speak in front of them left a strong imprint inside me… I knew that they would not judge me, so the feeling of fear began to fade. After I graduate from school, I will be more ready to interact with society and peers at university,” Ritaj says.
After training a group of volunteer Youth Leaders, who aspire to impact the lives of their peers positively, and qualifying workers in youth centres affiliated with the MoY, more than 200 ongoing sessions were facilitated through the Leadership Programme. Throughout them, facilitators covered various leadership topics such as enhancing self-awareness, and managing emotions, with a focus on gender; to offer Retaj and her peers the space to define and achieve their goals and map out personal initiatives of interest to them and their communities.
“I will continue to develop the skills I gained during the sessions and strengthen the pride and confidence I have found through this experience,” Ritaj says. “My message to all girls of my generation: keep trying and believe in yourself,” she concludes.