This is part two in a series of Q&A with our partner program in the Arab World. The first part can be read here.
Tirzah: Tell us about the spiritual, psychological, and social issues these young women face? And how old are the young women you work with in the area?
AWEMA director: These young women are 13 to 19 years old. Let me address each of the areas you've identified as they each have a unique set of factors:
- Spiritually: They are challenged by living in communities that have false beliefs about God. They most often believe that God is the reason for anything happening in their lives, the good and the bad. And, here, we're mostly talking about the bad: they blame God for the difficulties and traumas they have experienced because their community perpetuates a belief that God is a puppeteer. They believe God doesn't care about them and that he will not talk to them because they are sinful.
- Psychologically: Since these young women are neglected during most of their lives, they are in severe need of love and attention. They seek love in many different forms of unhealthy relationships because they've had little to no experience with or model of a healthy one. They don't know much about their feelings in that they have never learned how to emotionally process their experiences, so handling the pendulum of emotions that any young woman would experience becomes a much greater challenge without any of the emotional tools others might have. Their outlet for dealing with their emotional turmoil usually takes the shape of abusive relationships, depression, self-harming behavior, PTSD, and/or addiction. For example, some young women get involved in physical and sexual relationships at an early age because they are seeking care and attention that they should have gotten from their nuclear family, but never did.
- Socially: These girls are rarely aware of how to respect and take care of their bodies. Many of them could accept an unrespectable relationship or abusive marriage as it's the only way they can see to escape their homes and have a chance at the "love and affection" they desire. In some cases, young women think that getting married to richer men can help the family to raise their financial standards. They also do not have the right to choose for themselves what they want, in terms of financial decisions, household decisions, reproductive decisions and so on, because of the dominating family systems that they come from and marry into that are affected by culture that doesn't believe that Jesus loves and cares for each and every one of them. One of the main issues here is not having any privacy because of challenging financial conditions, which means that marital issues arise, often resulting in sexual abuse.
Tirzah: Could you share more about what the topic of "feeling management" involves? This sounds like a wonderful topic and we would like to hear more about what this means for the young women.
AWEMA director: Sure! The high level of stress and instability in the family leads to developing many sorts of defensive behaviors. Young women either use emotions denial (bottling), emotional wallowing (drowning), or emotional projection. Their lack of emotional self-awareness leads to a poor ability to handle their emotions.
Feeling and Emotional Management is a course that aims at allowing people to express their feelings and appropriately name them in a safe community that validates their feelings. Young women of such backgrounds and such life experiences used to be prevented from expressing their feelings. They either get involved in unhealthy relations to validate their feelings or they deny, drown or project them. Thus, it is essential that those young women would be given tools to know themselves and grow psychologically. The course includes knowing about their inner being and how their feelings strongly affect their behavior. It also includes spontaneous thoughts, which explains how the messages we receive in various situations affects us and sometimes triggers our previous negative experiences.
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Stay tuned for next week's question and answer with AWEMA's director to learn more about the risks of being a young woman in this region of the world and the impact of AWEMA's program.