I asked myself: “What has impacted me the most as a person?” The answer is my journey to get a good education. This journey has made me sacrifice the most precious things in my life: my family, friends and culture. However, it has made me a young woman of dignity by giving me a purpose in life and by opening the doors of unexpected opportunities.
I was born in one of the biggest refugee camps in the world. It is located in the Southwestern Algerian desert, where the temperature can reach 130 degrees Fahrenheit. It was there where my family and I, as victims of a three-decade-long dispute between Western Sahara and Morocco, took shelter. It was there where knowledge about the outside world was lacking, but where there was a hunger for learning and the determination to improve the rate of illiteracy was found. Growing up, all I knew were the hardships of the desert, mud-brick houses, and the tents made of thick, green canvas material. Nevertheless, things took a turn in another direction when I was selected for a special program that takes children who lost their fathers in the war to spend the summer with a Spanish host-family away from the hardship and the heat of the refugee camps.
It was at the age of ten when I made the decision to stay in Spain to begin my education. It was not an easy decision to make after having to leave behind my most beloved ones for twelve years. This decision made me miss the births and the most important stages in the life of my four younger sisters. Not only has this decision made me sacrifice my family, but also my culture, language and values. However, this sacrifice has taught me the most important principles which have helped me to learn how to live in different cultures and to respect their peoples. In addition to that, I built my character and strengthened my beliefs as an independent young woman.
These principles have helped me to be the young women of dignity that I am today by giving me a purpose that has given me a sense of understanding of my own hunger to get a good education. This hunger is the root of my passion and the dream of being one of the first female ambassadors of my nation to help my people in their fight for freedom. This purpose has given me a sense of belonging that makes me appreciate my own ethnicity, culture and language despite the fact that I have not lived with my people for a long time. It has also helped me maintain my language and culture throughout these years
My determination has opened the doors of unexpected opportunities, making the impossible a reality: first, going to Spain to study and later, being one of the first Saharawi to ever come to the USA and graduate from an American high school. This summer, I had the opportunity to read one of my poems in the presence of dozens of congressmen and senators in a reception on Capitol Hill. Similarly, in October of this year, I spoke as a petitioner before the UN’s Fourth Committee as an advocate for my people making me one of the first Saharawi women to do such a thing. Not only have these opportunities allowed me to meet many ambassadors and representatives from around the world, but also allowed me to have a Saharawi diplomatic-traditional tea and make connections with the Saharawi ambassador to the UN. Moreover, I received lectures by the Saharawi Minister of Foreign Affairs. In fact, when I asked him at the end: “What advice would you give to a young woman like me?” he simply said: “Study, study and study very hard, and be a good diplomat for our nation.”
Having analyzed the impact of education on my journey in life, I ask myself yet again: “Do I regret the sacrifice of being away from my beloved ones?” The answer is: No, I do not regret the sacrifice of being away from my family, or any other sacrifice because those sacrifices are what have given me a purpose to pursue my dreams and the opportunity to live an extraordinary life that leaves me with a unique story to tell. Moreover, my journey and the determination to get a good education will have an impact on my people in the refugee camps as well as others of different nations
By Agaila Abba blog freeewesternsahara