Thirteen year old Ruba and twelve year old Eman met one year ago when they were both new refugees trying to cope with their new life in Za’atari camp. Shortly after their arrival both girls decided to spend their time at a Child Friendly Space (CFS) run by Save the Children and UNICEF.
“The space was somewhere I came to occupy my mind with things other than the daily hardships my family was facing in this desert life,” recalls Ruba, “it helped me to meet girls my age who were in the same situation as well.”
After an entire year full of activities, friendships, and remarkable resilience at the CFS, Ruba, Eman and eight other girls have been chosen by their coordinator to form a Child Club within their CFS to guide the other girls. Found in every CFS in Za’atari, Child Clubs are made up of girls or boys in a CFS whose capacity is built by the CFS staff and are taught to implement and reach other children, also known as a child to child approach.
“Our coordinator helped us create our club, and we learned about the child to child approach, conflict resolution and treating each other equally,” explained Eman, “we decided to name our club the Princessess’ Club.”
The club meets three times a week to discuss new ideas, issues to be resolved, and ways to convey child protection messages to the other girls. One of the main challenges initially facing girls at the CFS was school. Many girls attened the CFS but didn’t attend school and the Princesses’ Club decided to step in and emphasize on the importance of education even in a camp setting.
“We organized a play and showed how the characters were able to reach their dreams by going to school,” explained the ambitious Ruba, “also we talked to these girls and now all of them attend school in Za’atari.”
Drawing and organizing plays are among the child to child approaches that the Princesses’ Club use to reach the other girls. The plays are acted out to follow various themes like hygiene, camp safety, team work, and education.
“The girls listen to us because they see us as their older sisters here,” said Ruba.
Part of the responsibility of any child club in Za’atari camp is community mobilization: to promote the activities at the CFSs and encourage other children to join.
“We had many cases where parents refused to send their daughters anywhere including the CFS,” Eman explained, “we visited each family and even invited them to the CFS with their daughters to see all the wonderful activities we do so they can understand that their daughters will be happy and safe here.”
The parents were also reassured when they were informed that Ruba, Eman and the other girls from the child club pick up all the girls from their homes and walk together in a group to their CFS session.
“I leave my house at 12:00 and meet the rest of the girls in the club, then we go around picking up the other girls to arrive at our session at 12:30,” said Eman. According to Eman, Ruba, and their coordinator, the number of girls attending the CFS has nearly doubled since the formation of the Child Clubs three months ago.
The creation of the Child Clubs hasn’t only benefited girls at the CFS but more so had a positive impact on CFS staff and club members themselves. Club members organize the room before a session and many times lead on activities with support from CFS staff.
“Staff at this CFS are impressed with the dedication of the girls in the Princesses’ Club,” said Hadeel, Save the Children’s Child Protection Coordinator, “with the responsibilities given to these girls, we also emphasize on the fact that they are still children who have rights and who deserve our attention at all times.”
Both Ruba and Eman are girls with big dreams. Determined and artistic Ruba dreams of becoming an architect, while energetic Eman wants to become a teacher.
“We used to be shy girls and I felt embarrassed to sing during activities, but after joining the child club I’m much more confident because we now feel like true leaders for the rest of the younger girls,” explained Ruba.
Members of the Child Clubs are chosen based on certain criteria, and according to Eman the most important is having a positive attitude and a willingness to develop and help others. The members’ ages are also slightly older than the rest of the girls who attend the CFS.
Ruba added, “I would really like to see some of the girls become part of the club in the future.”
“We feel like role models even towards our younger siblings,” said Eman, “the CFS makes me actually like my life in the refugee camp.”