“Equality, respect, and responsibility”, said Muneer’s mom, “those words would sum up my son’s experience in the 1001 Nights program. Looking back at Muneer’s character and how it evolved through the program, I can’t but feel really happy and proud of the kid he is today. Muneer, like most kids his age, thought that being a boy gave him the authority to do whatever he wants and behave the way he likes. As a mother, I did my best to raise him in a very respectful way. But we live in a community that influences him to act this way. I recall that one time, he refused to help clean his room, as he is a man, and only girls should help at home, and that his only chore as a man is to get the groceries from the supermarket. No matter what I did, and no matter how many times I explained that helping at home would not make him less of a man, he never listened. The turning point for me was when Muneer asked if he could help in doing the dishes after our family dinner. Here I was shocked and thought that was not my son speaking to me. After that, Muneer’s behavior and attitude were different. The fact that he started playing with his sisters and helping them made me happy. 1001 Nights was everything I wanted for my son to learn and understand because it helped me to make him a better person.”
“1001 Nights program is different. The stories and videos are unique; it’s like teaching everyone how to live in peace and harmony while learning the most valuable lessons in life. As a mother, a teacher, and a center founder, all that I look for in education is illustrated in 1001 Nights”, says Widad Al Saba’a, Sama for Development Association Founder in Saida.
The “1001 Nights” project is funded by the European Regional Development and Protection Programme for Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq (RDPP II), which is supported by the Czech Republic, Denmark, the European Union, Ireland, and Switzerland.
Ms. Widad added “when Muneer first came to the center, he was shy and cautious, and never participated in the activities that included girls. In the beginning, we thought that he was shy, we approached him to help him overcome this issue, only to realize that Muneer thinks that only boys have the right to play while girls should sit aside and watch. This statement triggered and worried me about Muneer’s involvement in 1001 Nights sessions, and how would we help him accept the fact that in class we are all equal regardless of our gender. I coordinated with his teacher and agreed on the need to emphasize more gender equality messages within the 1001 Nights stories, and how to always recall all core values of respecting and accepting others and that we are all equal. With time, we noticed Muneer’s attitude changing, he started participating in all the activities, he was the first one to show up to class and the last to leave, and significantly he stopped differentiating between genders”.
SAMA was founded on the principles of justice, equality, transparency, and non-discrimination. SAMA’s activities include food and medical assistance, development projects, youth capacity-building, women’s empowerment, as well as support for educational projects.
Muneer listening to his mom and Ms. Widad describing his change says: “I started coming to 1001 Nights sessions because I loved the idea of watching cartoons every day in class, but I never thought that watching cartoons will teach me how to be a better person. To my surprise, in the very first session, I was shocked when I realized that all stories are to be narrated by Shahrazad, a princess, and not the prince. I thought to myself why a woman is telling us the story? I looked away, examined my surroundings, and felt really uncomfortable. While watching more stories and attending the sessions, I realized that my way of thinking was wrong, and I am simply afraid to admit that gender is not the issue, it’s me. After the first encounter, I honestly did not want to attend the sessions anymore, but then I thought to myself maybe I should not give up easily, and decided to give the stories a chance, who knows maybe I will learn something at the end. With each session, I learned a new value, and I understood that equality and respect can change our perspective on the way we see things. Today, I help my sisters in cleaning the house and help my mom in cooking, and I participate in every activity in class. 1001 Nights taught me that gender equality is a must in life.”