Empowered Women Empower Women
I was raised by a woman who taught me to stand up for myself and those around me. My mother told my sister and me from a young age that “empowered women empower women.” Since I grew up with this phrase repeated in my head, I envisioned it as my mission for the future.
When I achieved the second-highest score across the country in my high school exit exams, I had the honor of meeting their Majesties King Abdullah II and Queen Rania of Jordan for recognition of my academic achievement. When they asked me what I wanted to study, I thought of what I knew as a little girl: to empower women around me. I told them I wanted to be an educator that they would be proud of, and ever since then, I started my educational journey in the world of English literature.
During my education, I had the chance to teach English as a Second Language (ESL) to refugee women with a local organization in Jordan. In my classroom, I had the phrase “Empowered women empower women” written on the wall. While teaching, I learned that while I was helping these women with English, they were helping me in return by teaching me love, courage, and hope. I learned from these women that empowerment is a never-ending cycle of giving and receiving.
Within my work in the same local organization, I also had the honor to work with young displaced girls in orphanages by teaching them English to enhance their chances of a better future after leaving their caregivers. Empowering these girls from such a young age made me reflect on my younger self. Without the empowerment I received from my family and those around me, I would have not extended this hand of encouragement to other women in society. The same way my mother and sister taught me how to love and take care of myself, I decided to teach these girls in return. “I am unique, I am special, there is no one like me,” were the phrases coming out of their mouths after learning all about self-love.
Empowerment through education is such a powerful tool to raise a generation that values women’s contributions to society, which is a much-needed area of improvement in today’s climate. Through studying literature, teaching it to middle school students, and live-streaming English courses online and on national TV in response to COVID, I paid specific attention to female authors and writers. I highlighted their work to ensure that their legacies continue.
I also wanted to give women a greater voice through my work in journalism. Writing stories about women, and for women, gave me a chance to learn more about motherhood and other parts of women’s lives. I have enjoyed watching other women articulate their ideas, and I find inspirations in women’s achievements. Once again, I thought that I was doing women a favor by writing about them, but I was humbled to know that they were doing me a favor instead by inspiring me. Empowered women are always there to support each other.
Fulbright empowered me to further empower other women and those around me. With the opportunity I have today, studying Global English Literatures at the University of Vermont in the United States, I get to amplify those voices that are rarely heard, through reading and studying literature written by women of color and other marginalized groups.
In my current studies, I am learning a new twist on the phrase I have held close to my heart for years. Empowered women must continually empower themselves, feel confident in their own voices, and find a community of women who make their voices even louder. I am extremely grateful for my newfound circle of strong women here in Vermont. I created friendships with women who want change and do not fear standing up for themselves and persisting.
Fulbright has not only provided me with tools to empower myself through this journey and find the social circles that enable me to do so, but it has also helped me see the power of education and highlight the importance of empowering women back home.
I cannot wait to fulfill my promise to their Majesties. Upon receiving my degree here from UVM, I will do whatever it takes to empower women around me, to make sure that they know they are loved, and to enable them to start a journey of empowerment to those around them, too. To all the women in my life and to those that I still have not had the joy of knowing yet, happy International Women’s Day! You are doing great! Never stop growing!
Joy is a first year Fulbrighter from Jordan. She is studying English at the University of Vermont.