Bayan Akkari is 19 years old, and if she had the means, she would have changed the world.
Tall, slim and self-confident, Bayan Akkari believes that women are all of the society, not half of it. “Women are the ones who raise children, girls and boys. They are therefore responsible for the way society looks at women,” she explains.
Bayan Akkari has participated in many CARE International activities in Lebanon, like self defense and dance classes to empowering young girls. She also benefited from remedial courses and participated in a play.
Bayan liked especially the zumba classes and the play that was presented in various cities of Lebanon as part of CARE’s activities. She played the role of a boy who had to live up to the expectations of his family and of society.
“Thanks to this play and to the work that we did, I understood that boys too are the victims of society, that like girls, they are brought up with prejudices, which are difficult to break,” she says.
“But it is time for that to change and we can do it by starting to raise awareness among all the segments of society. We must support girls and women, give them more self-confidence,” she adds.
Listening to Bayan, who has six siblings, it’s hard to imagine that this girl is barely 19 years old. Originally from the city of Homs in Syria, Bayan arrived in Tripoli, the capital of northern Lebanon in 2012, when she was 10 years old. Fleeing the bombs, she was mostly encouraged by her mother to study and do activities because did not want her daughters to drop out of school and marry young as she had done.
At first it was difficult for Bayan to adjust to life in Lebanon, to make new friends, to go to school. However, she ended up succeeding by starting from scratch.
Today, Bayan Akkari is taking computer programming lessons; and she is the only girl in the class. “At the beginning, the boys in the class thought it was strange, but now they got used to it,” she explains.
“I wanted to be an airline pilot, but come to think of it, it is not possible. I am a refugee and in Lebanon, only the Lebanese can do this job and join the national airline. So I changed my plan,” she says.
The young girl doesn’t have it easy. With the economic crisis affecting Lebanon and the confinement of the Coronavirus, it is difficult for Bayan to take online courses because she does not have a computer and does so by sharing with her siblings her mother’s phone, the screen of which is very small. Sometimes, too, she feels guilty towards her mother because going to the institute where she takes her classes requires taking public transport and she knows that her family is cutting on vital expenses to provide her with the necessary funds.
“I would like to be able to continue my studies, maybe even be able to go to university, earn a lawyer degree to defend women and really lay the foundations to fight against gender discrimination,” she says.