emPOWERgirls: Little by little we can make the world a better place

May 26, 2021

In our ’emPOWERgirls Stories’ we highlight the power women in UWC Maastricht’s community. This week you can read about Maruca and Zaynab. Maruca is part of our Female Empowerment Network and she is meeting Zaynab, a 18 year old Libyan student at UWC Maastricht.

“Are you allowed to travel alone? Does your father know you’re here?” Immigration, airline employees…they even called him several times to make sure he agreed with Zaynab travelling alone. “The trip to Maastricht was quite an adventure in itself,” she says. “And then I had to start school! And that was difficult at first, because I didn’t speak English yet.” Luckily, she quickly mastered that and now, barely six months later, she’s talking nonstop to Maruca Overdijk, who came to UWC Maastricht just to meet with Zaynab. Maruca is a member of the school’s Female Empowerment Network. “The network wants to bring five girls from the Middle East and North Africa to UWC Maastricht every year. The goal is that they will use and pass on the knowledge and experiences they gain here when they return to their home country.”

Zaynab already has a vision for her future. “I want to study something with computers. That way I can ensure that technology occupies an important place in education in Libya. Now digitization is nonexistent. For example, due to corona, all schools are closed and nothing is being learned.”

Maruca is impressed by Zaynab’s story and her ambitions. “Often we don’t realize that life in some parts of the world is so different than here! I am very happy that I was able to become an independent woman. That’s true for all the girls in the world. It’s nice to see Zaynab get that chance.”

Zaynab immediately adds, “In Libya I had a small business. I made candy, pastries and cupcakes. At first, my father didn’t like it. He said he’d give me money if I needed it. But I didn’t want to, because then I’d remain dependent on him. In the end, I made enough money to pay for my trip to Maastricht!” 

Her face lights up when she talks about this. Just like when she talks about her sister, who has taken over the business. And when she talks about her parents. She misses them very much, but she is also very happy and grateful for the opportunity she has been given to come to UWC Maastricht. Women like Maruca make this possible through the Female Empowerment Network. “If you can help, you do it, don’t you?” she says. “I hope we can offer many more girls this opportunity. Little by little we can make the world a better place!”

Would you like to contribute to helping girls like Zaynab? Then let us know!
On our website you can read more about our Female Empowerment Network. Feel free to email us at advancement@uwcmaastricht.nl and we will contact you as soon as possible.

Picture by Vanessa Smit.