Press Club helps Syrian children in Lebanon stand up for their rights
Sheymaa, who is 12, is one of a number of young people who go to the journalists' group run by Lebanese NGO BEYOND Association.
In a hot tent in Lebanon’s Beqaa Valley Sheymaa, a 12-year-old girl from Homs stands and confidently, defiantly, reads aloud her letter to the United Nations – to the leaders of the most powerful countries in the world – who have been unable to protect her rights.
“I used to have a beautiful village and a big city.
I had a garden, flowers and many friends around me.
I was a princess,
I had a neighbourhood, a street and an address.
Now all I have is a number.
They stole my values and gave me the number.
A code on the door of the camp and numbers for the tents.
Where are my rights without the number?
Where is my childhood? Where is my education?
Bring me back home and, I promise, I will leave my number as a gift for you.”
Sheymaa is one of a number of youth who form a Press Club run by Lebanese non-governmental organisation BEYOND Association.
The Press Club teaches its members about their rights and encourages them to write letters and poems, helping them communicate their ideas and express their feelings, after so many of them have experienced significant psychological trauma as a result of the conflict in Syria.
She said: “I’ve been coming to the young journalists club for a year. When I came to Lebanon I had problems expressing myself. The Press Club helped me talk more about my feelings and what I am going through.
BEYOND Association is aimed at promoting social, economic, cultural, educational, environment and health issues among several underprivileged groups.
The activities of the organisation concentrate mainly upon enhancing women’s rights, leadership participation and economic empowerment; increasing the level of awareness on social issues; and working for civil and humanitarian rights.
Maria Khayat Assi, Chief Executive Officer of BEYOND Association, has been managing the humanitarian and development intervention among the most vulnerable children and youth for the last 15 years.
She said the most pressing problem facing children and youth rights is child labour. Many Syrian families, having now been displaced for up to five years, are running out of what little savings they had and are facing increasing poverty and insecurity.
This worsening economic situation, coupled with labour restrictions and residency challenges, leaves them no choice but to send their children to work.
BEYOND Association is partnering with the Lebanese Ministry of Labour and the International Labour Organization to end the worst forms of child labour in Lebanon and to support working children to access essential services such as protection, psycho-social support and education.
BEYOND Association also empowers the children in its Youth Press Club, which created a podium to advocate against child labour through a media campaign and meeting with policy makers and members of the government to raise awareness on child labour violated rights.
In September Theirworld worked with BEYOND Association, with Shaymaa and with the Youth Press Club to take their letters to the UN General Assembly, where they were shared with politicians, business leaders and the media.
“When I think that my letter will be heard at the UN in New York, it makes me think that they know nothing about our lives and now I’m telling them directly, live from the camp, about our problems here,” said Nour, whose letter entitled “Isn’t five years enough?” demands an answer for the inaction and broken promises of the international community.
“The most important thing is for them to know what is going on.”