“I was happy when they told me I could attend this IT seminar. It was the first time I was actually given an educational opportunity,” Sherin, a 19-year-old woman from Syria, told Kathimerini on a recent Wednesday morning outside Metallourgeio, an early 20th century building on Pireos Street, south of central Athens, that once housed a metal factory.
The seminar – called “YouthSpark Live: Empowering Employment Opportunities for Women” – is organized by Tech Talent School, Social Innov and Microsoft under the auspices of the European Commission and the European Parliament.
Attendance among young female refugees during our visit was strong even though it was the middle of Ramadan, when Muslims traditionally scale back their activities.
Amina, Nesreen and Sherin, who live with their families at the Solidarity Now camp in Paiania, east of Athens, said they signed up for the IT classes as they felt their education had been cut short.
“I spent one year at the Polykastro facility [near the Greek border with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia], where there was nothing to do,” said Sherin, who had once planned to study computer science.
“I already knew most of what we were shown today, but I hope that we will learn more in the coming seminars,” she added.
The three young women are familiar with technology and social media. The skill has, after all, been key to their survival.
“When we fled Syria I was still too young to own my own cell phone,” Amina, 14, said. “But we used my parents’ device to receive instructions through WhatsApp.”
The girls are constantly online to communicate with friends and relatives who have inevitably ended up scattered around the world. Amina and Sherin will soon be relocated to a different country in the European Union.
Nesreen is more concerned about her future after authorities rejected her family’s claim for relocation. Asked about how she would like to spend her free time, she said, “I want to learn English and Greek as quickly as possible.”
Had life been kinder, she would now be finishing high school in her home country. “My ambition was to become a dentist,” she said. “I hope I’ll be able to continue my studies here.”