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European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations

‘The confident girl’: meet the Syrian girl who learned to love herself

With funding from the EU, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) helps girls like Lina through difficult times. Back in Syria, she lived in a big house in Homs. But her life changed after fleeing to neighbouring Lebanon.

She struggled to make friends, lacked self-confidence, and felt like a stranger in her own home. The Girl Shine programme changed all that.

“I used to never leave the house,” 19-year-old Lina admits. “I didn’t have good friends, nor did I have the self-confidence to go out and get to know people or change anything about my life.” She spent days at home battling depression and low self-esteem and would get into frequent arguments with her family.

Lina is one of 1.5 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon. She lives with her mother and three siblings in a refugee camp. The majority of Syrian families live in poverty and their children are often out of school.

To cope in times of rising inflation and poverty, many Syrian families are cutting their food intake or sending their children to work. The adolescent girls in these families are especially vulnerable and in need of support and care.

Lina standing up while reading a book
Lina used to struggle with self-esteem. Now they call her ‘the confident girl’.
© Elias El Beam/IRC

After getting in touch with Somaya, a community mobiliser with the IRC, Lina was eager to start attending Girl Shine sessions. The EU-funded programme helps girls develop life skills, set boundaries, and build self-confidence in a safe and supportive environment.

Somaya walking on a road to school
Somaya has noticed the positive changes in Lina. “She’s a determined person, despite her difficult past,” she says.
© Elias El Beam/IRC

“She didn’t seem happy,” says Somaya, remembering her first encounter with Lina. “But when we launched the Girl Shine programme, she was always telling her friends to hurry up, so they didn’t miss the session. That made me very happy.”

It was during Somaya’s sessions that Lina learned the value of being confident enough to make new friends. “It lifts my mood when I go see them,” she says. “They are important to me, and the way I communicate with them comforts me.”

Lina and her brother Ahmad embracing eachother
Lina shares a close bond with her brother Ahmad and motivates him to study so he can have a better future.
© Elias El Beam/IRC

Lina also adopted healthy ways to resolve conflict with her family. “We couldn’t agree on anything,” she says. “I always opposed everything without thinking.” She developed a closer bond with her mother and brother, simply by taking a moment to hear their perspective before reacting.

Ahmad, Lina’s 14-year-old brother, has noticed the changes in her. “She doesn’t like to hurt anyone,” he says, describing his favourite thing about his sister. Seeing positive developments in her personality — especially the changes in her attitude towards herself — motivated Ahmad to become more self-confident himself.

Lina with her mother and brother
What Lina learned in the EU-funded Girl Shine sessions has brought her closer to her family.
© Elias El Beam/IRC

At home, Lina now goes by the nickname ‘the confident girl’. “When I want something, I don’t give up on it,” she explains. “This is what has kept me going.”

She dreams of one day becoming a lawyer and having her own practice, spending days in the library reading books about laws and civic jurisdiction. When asked how she remains so committed to achieving this goal — despite all she’s been through — she replies without hesitation.

“One must develop self-love and self-confidence to move forward in life,” she says. “Even if there is a crisis, life goes on, so we have to keep moving forward and not let anything get in the way of pursuing our dreams.”

The EU supports the IRC in Lebanon to provide mental health and psychosocial support as well as protection services to vulnerable and marginalised children and youths, including those that are out of school, living on the street or working.

Story by Elias El Beam, Communications Manager, International Rescue Committee Lebanon
Publication date: 11/10/2022