Sana*, who had a keen interest in girls’ rights and advocating for girls’ education, always wanted to pursue a career as a pilot when she finished school, but lacked the confidence and family support to make it a reality.
Sana is one of 265 girls from 26 cohorts who have completed the SEED Girls program, and at 17 years old, she is one of the older participants. She joined SEED Girls on the recommendation of a friend who graduated from a previous cohort – saying it was useful, accessible, and very age-appropriate. She too has now recommended the program to her relatives and friends who are registered in current cohorts and eager to join the next.
“The thing which I liked most is that we felt that the facilitator is like our friend and the sessions were fun and full of activities so we were not bored and we were always so excited about what we will learn in the next session,” explains Sana.
All of the topics resonated with her, but a few stood out as critical for her next stage in life, as a young woman. “In online safety I learned how to protect myself while using the internet, and if I face any issue, I learned how to solve it,” she says. “Before these sessions I thought physical abuse was the only type of violence, but after the sessions I now know that there is emotional, physical, and sexual violence, as well as early marriage and other types as well.”
Sana completed SEED Girls feeling more empowered to complete her education and continue on her career path. She now feels more comfortable with her own physical health – including how to manage her monthly menstrual cycle, her emotional health, she understands what her rights are as a young woman living in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI), and critically, she has improved the relationship she has with her family and her parents.
“I know my rights and now I have very strong self-confidence. Before, my parents were not asking for my opinion on issues and decisions that affected me, but now my parents, and especially my mother, are making an effort to be my friend and ask my opinion on everything related to me,” says Sana. Sana’s mother joined the SEED Girls mother’s sessions, learning how to better communicate and engage with her daughter, and support her to be the best version of herself. Now she too advocates for girls to complete their education to other parents. “My parents are now supportive and encourage me to achieve my dream to be a pilot – before they were against this idea.”
Seeing how beneficial this training has been for herself, her relatives and her friends, Sana now believes that all young girls should be educated on their rights. “It’s important for a girl to know her rights, to protect her from many things, for example early marriage,” explains Sana. “Many girls don’t know what to do or who to trust when they face a problem and the result in the end may be that the girl is killed by her parents. These sessions are important to raise awareness for girls on important topics which they need in their daily life.”
Taking her new skills and knowledge with her everyday, Sana is proud to help educate others – including her teachers and her own grandfather – about her rights and the importance of upholding girls rights in the KRI. “I feel that I was a reason to change someone’s thoughts and I’m proud of this,” exclaims Sana.
*Names and minor details have been changed to protect the client’s confidentiality.