Letters from Ocean Heroes

A Letter from Manar Elkebir: Being a Girl is Power Itself

March 2, 2021

Being born and raised on my ancestors’ land, Gabes, a small coastal city on the gulf of the Mediterranean in Tunisia, I have always had a deep and strong connection with the ocean and nature. My city is known for its exotic and rare features of the world - sea, oasis, and mountains - all in a small geographic area. Sadly, it is also known as one of the most polluted cities in all of Africa. I grew up an observer of the destruction of our ecosystem. I grew up with one dream: to see change. 

Young people coming together in joint action has served as a major engine of social transformation throughout human history and that is what inspired me to make my dream a reality. One of my favorite sayings of Oprah is “If you really want to fly, just harness your power to your passion.” 

In a world of injustice, I felt small and incapable. I didn’t know how someone at an early age can be heard or even noticed, not to mention a girl with world-changing ideas. 

Learning about climate change and Fridays For Future by Greta Thunberg, I realized that I shouldn’t wait until I become an adult to take action and that being young and female is never an excuse to not do so. Watching the crowds of youth in the streets demanding climate justice and a healthy planet on the T.V. made me realize that I am not alone in this fight. So I initiated the first climate march in Southern Tunisia on 29th November 2019 on the Global Day of Mobilization for Climate Action. Sometimes it is as simple as “if you want to take action DO IT.” No matter how big the world is, your voice does matter as long as you are on this planet.

After attending the Ocean Heroes Bootcamp in Canada in 2019, I felt empowered and gained the resources and the skills that I need to promote the change I dreamt of.

Being raised in a family that believes that both genders and all human beings should be treated equally, I have become the person I am today.  I am so lucky to have been raised by two great women in my life, my two grandmothers who have been my idols to look up to and admire.

Manar's grandmother holding her father as a child.
Manar's grandmother holding her father as a child.

The mother of my father was a farmer. Deprived of her right to education and married at 17 years old, she struggled to raise my dad with my grandfather’s absence. Working hard and sacrificing for her children, she strived to provide them with a quality education. My grandma has not only taught me perseverance and determination but also she is the one who sowed the seeds of love for the earth and its elements in me. 

The mother of my mother was a nurse in the 1960s and worked in a military hospital when  Tunisia gained independence from France, while the majority of Tunisian women were veiled, uneducated, and performed domestic duties required by husbands and fathers. With all the pressure and oppression, she never gave up on her dream. She was one of the few women who got to work at that time. 

Manar's maternal grandmother.
Manar's maternal grandmother.

To the girl reading this,

Dreams do become true! Remember this. You are capable of changing the world. We are powerful. Don’t be afraid to share your thoughts, your vision, and your passion because the world needs you. Even as you stand alone, firmly believing in your ability to change systems and communities, you have courage. Being an activist is being patient, hopeful, and positive. Dream big and don't expect others to feel as passionate about your dreams as you do.

Most importantly, be yourself. Stay true to who you are and your inner knowing. And above all else, remember that being a girl is power itself.

 

- Manar Elkebir, Tunisia, Africa