When you were younger, what did you want to be when you grew up? An astronaut? A teacher? A fashion blogger?
For many young women, achieving these dreams is just years of schooling away. For young refugee girls in Jordan, there are more hurdles and obstacles to overcome.
The International Rescue Committee sent photographer
Meredith Hutchinson to meet these girls for Vision
Not Victim, a project that allows them to expand their "idea of what is possible." The girls sketch a photo of their future careers and then create a photo shoot where they dress up like their future selves. Each girl is given copies of the photos to show their families.
While working with adolescent girls in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Hutchinson asked a group of girls who their role models were.
“After thinking for a few minutes, they went around the circle and each named a Western man — Benjamin Franklin, Martin Luther King, Jr., etc,” Hutchinson told Revelist. "These men, these individuals they saw as role models — were extraordinary leaders we can all look to, but there was a disconnect between their life journey and the obstacles these girls were facing in present day Congo.”
After realizing that these young girls weren't learning about the amazing entrepreneurs, artists, and leaders who could be the heroes to these young girls were not receiving the media attention in an area of conflict and poverty, Hutchinson wanted something to change.
“It was immediately clear that the spectrum of visibility for women and girls in this context are extremely narrow,” says Hutchinson. “The women you see from these places are almost always portrayed as victims.
With the Vision Not Victim Project, Hutchinson was able to interact with girls who experienced conflict in Syria –shelling of their homes and neighborhoods, the loss of loved ones. Fleeing as refugees to Jordan means they face different, yet at times no less lethal forms of violence.
“They are harassed on the street, they may experience domestic violence in their home, they face exploitation, they are denied access to education, often times their parents are so afraid for their safety that they don’t let them leave the house, they are at risk of early and forced marriage, etc.,” says Hutchinson. “Despite what they have experienced, these girls have incredible ideas, goals, and dreams for their future. They are powerful. They have potential and such hope.”
These photos stand as a powerful testament of strength and courage for these young girls. Showing them the finished product for the first time was a highlight for Hutchinson.
“They were in awe of themselves –with huge smiles, running to show their friends and families,” says Hutchinson. “Later, when we hung the photos in a gallery space for the community, they stood proudly by their images, explaining to people around them their experiences during the photo shoot, their dreams and thoughts around their desired professional field.”
Here are some of the photos of the girls, along with words written by the girls about their future selves:
Fatima, 12, future teacher
“In this image, it is the early morning and I am waiting in my classroom for my students to arrive. I teach younger children to read and write Arabic. I am a very compassionate and kind person, and so a perfect teacher. I am strict, but I go out of my way to gently help those students who are having difficulties.”
Malack, 16, future police officer
“I’ve always wanted to be a policewoman because the police not only keep people safe, but they also create justice in society. Every day I wake up, go to the station, and then head out into the city to see where I can help. I also work to inspire other young girls to become policewomen — supporting them to dream about their future and thinking about how they will overcome obstacles.”
Fatima, 11, future surgeon
“In this image, I am examining an X-ray of a patient to see what is causing the pain in her chest. At this point in my life I am a well-respected surgeon in the region. I treat many patients, but the patient I care most about — the one that drove me to be a doctor — is my father, who has lots of medical issues. To be able to help my father, this makes me feel strong, powerful, and capable.”
Muntaha, 12, future photographer
“Since I was a young girl I loved taking people’s photographs. I loved going to different events and documenting what was happening — both the good and bad. Now, as a professional photographer I use my images to inspire hope in others — to encourage love and understanding.”
Rama, 13, future doctor
“Walking down the street as a young girl in Syria or Jordan, I encountered many people suffering — sick or injured — and I always wanted to have the power and skills to help them. Now, as a great physician in my community, I have that ability. Easing someone’s pain is the most rewarding aspect of my job. To be able to give them relief and make them smile — this is what I love most.”
Fatima, 16, future architect
"I’ve always wanted to be an architect. Yet, when I was young people told me that this is not something a woman could achieve, and they encouraged me to pursue a more ‘feminine’ profession. But I dreamt constantly of making beautiful homes for families, and designing buildings that bring people joy. Now that I’ve reached my vision, I hope I am a model for other girls — showing them that you should never give up on your dream — no matter what others say."
"Fatima was one of our first photo shoots and she said she wanted to be hairdresser. So we set up a salon – curling irons and hairspray and a few customers and created images.
Towards the end of Vision not Victim, Fatima approached me and said – I told you I wanted to be a hairdresser because that is what my father and my brothers told me was my only option – that if a girl wanted a job –this was it. But after meeting mentors and seeing that anything is possible for me – I want to be an architect.
We set up a second photo shoot – with Fatima as an architect – hard hat and blue prints and it was like she was a completely different person – head high, shoulders back, radiant. You can see in the image she is a bit larger than life."
Merwa, 13, future painter
“In this image, I am a popular painter, working on a landscape in oils. When I was younger, painting was a hobby — but as I grew older I saw I had a great talent and went to art school. Now I have my own gallery where I sell my paintings and sculptures. My hope is that my artwork inspires peace in the world and encourages people to be kind to one another.”
Haja, 12, future astronaut
“Ever since we studied the solar system in primary school, I have wanted to be an astronaut. I would imagine myself up in the sky discovering new things. I love being an astronaut because it lets me see the world from a new angle. In this society my path was not easy — many people told me a girl can’t become an astronaut. Now that I have achieved my goals, I would tell young girls with aspirations to not be afraid, to talk to their parents about what they want and why, to always be confident and know where you want to go.”
Nour, 16, future lawyer
“I want violence against women to end. I want women to be able to make decisions for the community, and say their opinion without fear. I want our society to open up and give space for women to be whoever they want to be. This is why I decided to become a lawyer. When I was younger, my mother told me I was courageous and truthful, and that I could be a great lawyer who fought injustice. I took her advice, and now am a respected lawyer working on women’s rights and defending women who are victims of domestic violence.”
Hiba, 9, future pediatrician
“I have always wanted to help children, and this is what drove me to be a pediatrician. I am kind and loving, and therefore an excellent doctor that children can trust.”