Author: Reem Akl
Can you describe the moment that changed your life and led you to focus on the issue of poverty and prisons?
A specific moment that changed my life was when I was a young journalist and I visited a prison in order to cover a story. I was excited about the new story I was working on, but when I was inside the prison, I was faced with a scene that made me realize how children in juvenile detention centers were suffering. It was a turning point for me, and from that moment on, my life changed 180 degrees. I felt a strong connection to those children and I knew I had to do something to help them.
Can you tell us more about the "New Life" project that you initiated and how it helped female prisoners reintegrate into society?
"New Life" is a huge project that I initiated in order to help and support female prisoners, as well as their children, who were also stigmatized. The goal of the project was to provide training and employment opportunities for these women, so they can earn a living and support themselves and their families. We focused on providing them with a profession or trade that they can excel in. I am glad to say that it was actually successful, and we were able to support more than 500 women to leave prison and face society with dignity. We provided training in various skills and trades, such as art and crafts, and helped them find job opportunities. Additionally, we also provided support for their children, through programs such as training in sports and the arts, to help them overcome the negative effects of having a parent in prison.
How have the lives of these women and children improved through this project?
The project had tremendous impact on the lives of many women and children. Through training and employment programs, we were able to help more than 500 women leave prison and gain the skills they need to support themselves and their families. The social stigma surrounding these women was often a huge barrier to their reintegration into society, but with the skills they gained through our program, they were able to overcome that and find job opportunities.
We also focused on the children of those female prisoners. We implemented a number of programs to help them develop their talents and interests, whether it be in art, sports or other areas. Some of these children are now sports champions and their lives have changed 180 degrees. Their situation is much better than before. They are no longer trapped in poverty and in the prison system, and are now able to live a dignified life.
Can you discuss the issue of female debtors and those in prison for poverty?
The issue of poverty prisoners is a very important and pressing issue that I became aware of through my work with women and children in prisons. These are people who are imprisoned not because of any criminal activity, but simply because they are poor and unable to pay for basic goods and services. They may be unable to pay for things like their daughter's wedding, a sudden surgery, or even basic necessities like food and clothing. Through my work, I saw how this issue affected not only the individuals who were imprisoned but also their families and children, who were often left without any means of support.
What is your goal for the future after receiving the Princess Sabeeka Bint Ibrahim Al Khalifa global award?
The Princess Sabeeka Bint Ibrahim Al Khalifa award is a great honor and recognition of my work. She is a woman who believes in the efforts of other women and in their ability to change communities and societies. Winning this award has been a great motivation and resource for me to continue my work in supporting and empowering women, particularly those who have been affected by poverty and incarceration. It has also given me a sense of acknowledgement for the work that I have been doing and has reinforced my belief that my efforts can make a real difference in the lives of these women. It has also brought more attention to my project "New Life" and the cause of supporting and empowering women, which I hope will lead to more support and resources for my work.