I Have a Story
Omar (*) had always been a demure young boy. Serious-minded and extremely conservative in his mindset, he held a number of beliefs that had begun to seem out of step with the times. He maintained the belief that unrelated men and women should never mix, and passionately believed that women should have little cause to ever leave the house and interact with society. Although only 17, his convictions were the law in his family home, and his mother and sister were rarely permitted to leave the home (and never unsupervised).
In many ways, Omar’s beliefs actually took a toll on the boy himself; he rarely became involved with the activities his peers enjoyed and seemed averse to fun and engagement. It was perhaps surprising when he signed up to take part in the “I Have a Story” campaign, a project that aims to spread awareness of gender rights through film. Many of the movies showed at the sessions speak out in favour of women’s rights, and condemn violence or abuse against women; positions that would initially seem to conflict greatly with Omar’s chosen worldview. Despite this apparent conflict, Omar continued to quietly attend the sessions, although nothing about his behaviour initially suggested that his mind had been changed by the content.
That was until he arrived at a later session with his sister, Fatima (*), apparently keen to share the lessons he had learned in the sessions. No mere fluke, he also invited his mother, Henan (*), along to the next session as well. The three family members continued to engage with the content as a unit, and it became gradually apparent that Omar’s attitude was changing.
Omar now seems more relaxed in the rules he holds to his female family members. Fatima and Henan now regularly attend and take part in the sports and activities available at JOHUD’s CDC, provided that Omar accompany them. His newfound empathy and concern for his family’s wishes has been matched by a new concern for his own sense of participation and fun. With his sister’s encouragement, Omar has taken up dancing for the first time, from traditional Dabka dances to modern and foreign hip-hop dancing.
Henan has noticed a real change in her son, and she believes it is for the better. When asked about the most positive change in his behaviour, she pointed to his new attitudes to his sister. She stated that she was happy that “my son has been convinced of his sister’s right to join in with activities, as long as he is there to make sure everything is good”. It is likely that this new relaxed attitude will help both siblings to enjoy life more fully than before.
(*) All names have been changed to protect the family’s confidentiality