My name is Marwa

My name is Marwa and I am a resident of Gaza Camp. The inhabitants of Gaza Camp aren’t legally recognized by any country, we are more like visible ghosts. We don’t have a Palestinian passport, we only have a 2-year temporary Jordanian passports especially for people from Gaza. So in the eyes of the law we’re neither Palestinians nor Jordanians, we belong to no country. The refugees in Gaza camp escaped war in 1967 on foot all the way from Gaza until they arrived in Jordan, and were given 750 square meters- less than a kilometer of space — in northern Jordan. It was intended to be temporary, but now many generations have been born there and nearly 45. 000 inhabit the camp. The camp is overcrowded and bursting at its seams, but restrictive government policies have made escape nearly impossible.

Gaza Camp, Jarash, Jordan

 Gaza Camp residents are not allowed to be officially employed, schooled nor are they provided health care. They live on the aid provided to them from the UN, and unfortunately, when the Syrian refugees came to Jordan most of this help was transferred to them and the camp was left to extreme poverty. The lack of opportunity and pressure led to a restless population and crime, alcohol and drugs increased as the camp tried to cope.

And there are the inner hurdles, it is very hard to be a woman in Gaza camp, the restrictions on women are very stifling. People there believe that after finishing high school, a woman’s focus should be on marriage and raising children. The average age of marriage in the camp is 14 but I know girls as young as 10 who have been married. Girls are taught that their place is in the home and they are excluded from the labour market and the majority are deprived from continuing their education. One of the saddest things was women are also excluded from sport. I love football and I am very good at it but I’ve been told that sport in general and football in particular are only for boys and I was warned not to play it. I was not allowed to go to parks, playgrounds or to do any other activity my brothers can easily do. 

Growing up I was only allowed to go to school other than that I don’t do anything. On holidays I would spend all my days in my room, most of the time I wouldn’t even know which day it was or how is the weather outside, it felt that I only have one day and it is repeated over and over. I wondered if anyone outside knows that we are here, that we are alive but locked up in this camp. It was as if the only thing progressing is our age, everything else is going backwards. I thought that I’ll live in this room forever; I used to get panic attacks many times a week. A volunteer who used to visit the camp kept my company on whatsapp and asked me to write a message to my future self, I wrote in my message that it is just a matter of time until I can get out of this prison and live like all women around the world, even though I didn’t know how life really was out of the camp. I kept writing in my room almost every day and writing did save my life, and here I am grateful to be alive.

During this time, all of my friends and women around me were preparing to get married, but I received the highest GPA on my branch in high school and received only one of two scholarships to go to University. It was the most challenging and scary thing I had to do, convincing my relatives and people in the camp that I don’t want to get married, and that I had other dreams.  I was afraid to tell them about my dreams and ambitions. I felt like an outsider for daring to want something other than marriage.  I never felt like other women in the camp,  my dreams felt different.. So I rejected every opportunity for marriage which got me and my parents in issues with people in the camp.  

I felt that I had a lot of things to do, but first of all , I wanted to change this entire system. But it was very strong, much stronger than me; at the last semester in university my aunt arranged a marriage for me to a family friend. He promised I could continue to study but, after our marriage, the first thing he told me was to stop studying and that I should never work. He told me to just stay in the house and he’ll do everything. That was one of the most devastating things anyone ever told me.. This was the life of all women in Gaza Camp; after marriage,she is treated as property, not allowed to leave the house at all. My relatives were against divorce as it is a big shame here for women, if a woman got divorce that means her life is over and she won’t ever get married. But, with the support of my mother, I listened to my heart and asked for a divorce. 

 I think my life really started when I recognized that no one should tell me what to do and I am responsible for my life. I can do whatever I want without having to take many permissions from male members in the family and that I deserve respect and freedom. This is what I want to help other women recognize and live by. Thanks to my mother, who was very supportive, I went on to finish my bachelor degree, and I moved to the capital Amman. I’ve been working in the development sector for 3 years. I went back to the camp and founded the first ever women football team. Partnering with Princess Lara, I help women and people in vulnerable communities to receive proper help medically and socially. I also work in programs that create job opportunities for women and encourage them to work and be self-dependent.  

I want this suffering to stop. The things I suffered in the camp and overcame are what got me in the humanitarian field and made me passionate about it. I want to work hard to change the lives of women in Gaza Camp, to show them a better path and make them believe in themselves and how good it feels when you accomplish something and feel recognized. I want to make structural changes in the system and do my best to enforce the 17 UN goals.  When I am able to create work opportunities for women in vulnerable places like Gaza Camp, and support them to get over their fear of accomplishing their dreams and empower them, it reminds me of why I am here on earth. This is what I want to do for the rest of my life.

At a sports day for women. Playing for gender equality in Jordan

76 responses to “My name is Marwa”

  1. Marwa, you are a hero. I’m glad you have a strong, supportive mother who helped you and that you are blogging here to tell your story and about the camp. I admire your courage. Please take good care of yourself and be safe as you continue on your beautiful life.

    Liked by 8 people

  2. marwa, your heart and your soul always knew what was right and you followed that path, no matter how hard the course. i’m sorry for all you’ve had to endure and for those who continue to endure, and you are a light among them, who continues to help hands on and who offers them hope in so many ways.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. Reblogged this on Robby Robin’s Journey and commented:
    A powerful story from new blogger, Marwa, a young resident of Gaza Camp in Jordan. Her words remind us of our advantages in the “First World”. A voice worth listening to.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. A beautiful story of a young woman with the courage to pursue her own life and dreams. It should not have to be so hard for anyone anywhere.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Marwa, what an amazing story! Your follow on my site (thank you) lead me to read yours. I appreciate learning how others live, and about their challenges and successes. Lives around the world have differences, but there are similarities. An unexpected joy in blogging is discovering and learning how others live. It changes my perspective on life. Blessings to you for what you are doing. Thank you for sharing. I look forward to reading more about your life.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. You are a shining example of someone who had the courage to say and do what your heart told you was correct…I wish you luck with your future endeavours and that many other young women whose lives you touch have the same courage to follow their dreams for a better world 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Wow Marwa. I am deeply touched by your courage and compassion to overcome the challenges and restrictions of being a woman in Gaza Camp. Then to rise above it and commit yourself to helping others rise up. Thank you for your inspiring example. blessings, Brad

    Liked by 2 people

  8. My eyes moistened while reading the pathetic condition of Gaza camp. Your story is touching. But I salute your courage and determination. Let Almighty extend all help to make you achieve the goal of your life. I’m glad that you have identified the purpose of life and you are working on it. My best wishes to you, Marwa! Stay blessed always 🙏

    Liked by 1 person

  9. So very glad you had the strength and support to escape, and now the compassion to help others. Western women may seem to have freedom but get paid far less, subjected to much violence in the home and workplace … so while your restriction are overt ours is more subtle and therefore more insidious.

    So we need many more Marware’s … nice to meet you!

    Liked by 2 people

  10. My God mu heart goes out to yours from the depths. As a woman in a different culture to yours I still feel so restricted in many ways. But what you are enduring and the positive intelligent way you cope fills me with both humility and admiration. Thanks so much for stopping by my blog so I could find yours.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. You are an inspiration and your story is fuel to the spirit of my Being. Thank you for being here, being you, and sharing your triumphant, incredibly courageous story that spread the ripples of real change, real compassion, and real possibilities.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. You have done a commendable job to uplift yourself and your community specially the women. I am highly impressed by your exemplary courage and determination to move forward and do something worthwhile. I’m also going to reblog your blog. Continue the good work, my best wishes to you.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Wonderful. Dear Marwa, You are an inspiration to all women. I admire your courage and determination. This post is an eye opener for all of us. I can’t even imagine the horrors that you went through but you emerged stronger and victorious due to your mother’s support and your own bravery. Thank you so much for sharing this post.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I’m so very happy to have met you, Marwa. You are an exceptional writer. I only wish I was a publisher for I would publish this blog “My Name Is Marwa” in every language and sell it on Amazon for all the world to read. I have visited Amman, Jordan and Jerusalem. I love the Lord and see that you, too, appreciate and adore Him. (Thank you so much for your ‘like’ on my blog entitled “God’s Greatest Gift For Humanity”.) My prayer for you is that may all of your dreams, hopes, and pursuits bring glory, peace and love to our Suffering Savior, Christ Jesus. Amen!

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Amazing, i’m glad that you listened to your Heart. Thanks to your supportive mom who told you to take Your first step towards your goal and to make your Life beautiful. 😊

    Like

  16. I read your post Marwa, with the greatest of joy, that you have stepped out of the shadow of your past… and trust that the months, and years of your tomorrows shall be ever brighter still… in your own way, you have become a star in the night sky of the women of Gaza Camp… as we say in Jamaica… walk good…!
    🇯🇲🏖️

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Reblogged this on Mitch Teemley and commented:
    My Featured Blogger this week is Marwa of Reframing Life. Marwa lives in Gaza Camp, a decades-old prison-like refugee enclave in northern Jordan. Through rare courage Marwas altered the course of her life, and is now making a difference in others’ lives. Read her story and you’ll see what I mean.

    Like

  18. Marwa, thank you for sharing your story. You are an inspiration. May your pathway continue to open wider to new opportunities, and may others join you in the struggle for greater freedom. Stay strong. May you be blessed with the gift of persuasion.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Marwa, you’re a hero. I’m so glad that Mitch shared your story, and you, with us! I can’t imagine the life you lived while in the camp. I’m so happy for you and your role as a leader for women in Gaza, and all over the world for that matter. I’m proud of you! I said a prayer for you as you continue your fight of faith. The prayers won’t end. I’m sorry for what you’ve endured. And am proud of what you overcame. You’re an example for all of us. Stay safe and blessed. 💛🙏🏻

    Liked by 1 person

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