The force of Janna!!!

15 Jul


My three passions in life are Women, Africa and the arts. My passion for women and children empowerment started over 15 years ago when I trained through POWA,, to understand the intricacies and realities behind what abuse is, why so many women and children suffer and we also learnt how to unpack the patriarchal ideologies that have driven so many laws regarding women and children, which leads to the archaic myths and misconceptions that surround abuse.

Throughout my career, activism has become my other job and a way of life for me. I have worked with other non-governmental organisation from all around the world. A few years back I got into a heated debate with a friend regarding the Palestinian and Israel issue, with a lot of thought I began to investigate the realities of the political situation. I am not a politician and so I do not choose to analyse it from that point of view but from the humanitarian point of view. My investigations have been trying to work with women organisations on the ground and see how activists around the world can assist them. When I worked for a Jewish radio station a few years back, I had the opportunity of interviewing a woman, who worked for an NGO based in Israel. As I began to unpack what they do, my main interest was the well being of the women and children and the more I asked the more the representative kept on trying to sway the conversation to her hatred for arab men. I knew then that perhaps that organisation would is not a great synergy for me. This year I have made contact with a number of organisations range that from NGO’s to art spaces to women’s groups. We are working together on a number of projects and campaigns which should be unravelled within the next year.


In December 2017, the world woke up to the news that Ahed Tamimi had been arrested. The reason for the global outcry was due to the fact that Ahed was only 17 years old. She was arrested for slapping a soldier outside her home. She was sentenced to eight months in prison and will be released on July 29 2018. Naturally, I needed to understand the details of the arrest and how we could assist in having her released. I was then led to “2 Suns Shamsaan”, an initiative which aims to capture the voices of children. The initiative was founded by Nadia Meer. The South African project has documented about 200 Palestinian children through interviews and art – drawings that they made that reflected their life stories. “Shamsaan in Arabic means two suns,”. It is a platform for Palestinian children to send their message to other people in the world. The idea came from the drawing of a 5-year-old Palestinian child who was recovering in the hospital for almost a year after his family home was attacked by Israeli settlers. The settlers petrol-bombed the home in the middle of the night, killing the boy’s parents and his 18-month-old baby brother.
“This child did a drawing of two suns in the sky. When he was asked why​ he just said ‘I want the world to be extra sunny and bright’,” Meer said. “Generally a sun to a child is a life force. This clearly stood for the two parents that are now missing.”
Meer said 2 Suns Shamsaan was also working on a child prisoner campaign as there are currently almost 400 children in jail.

The initiative boasts many ambassadors from Palestine and form South Africa. Janna Jihad, named as the worlds youngest journalist, is one of the ambassadors and has visited South Africa talking on their work as well as explaining and highlighting the realities of life on the ground in her village.
On her recent visit to South Africa, I was fortunate to attend the film screening of her documentary, called Radiance of Resistance. I also had the opportunity to sit down and talk with Janna for a few minutes.


Who is Janna?

Janna Tamimi, more commonly known as Janna Jihad or Janna Jihad Ayyad, was born on 6 April 2006. She is a Palestinian youth activist and journalist. Janna is a member of the Banu Tamim tribe and is from Nabi Salih, a village on the West Bank in Palestine. Her mother, Nawal Tamimi, is the director of Women’s Affairs in the Palestinian Ministry of Development. She is the niece of activist Bassem al-Tamimi and cousin of activist Ahed Tamimi. Janna began her journalism career when she was seven years old after she saw that nobody was reporting on her West Bank village of Nabi Saleh.

“I saw there were not enough journalists to cover things that happen in Nabi Saleh – like when my friend Mustapha had been killed and my uncle Rushdie had been killed.”

“A lot of things started to happen and the world didn’t know about it … so I wanted to cover everything that happens with us as Palestinian children living under occupation and to send our message to the world.”

She has been called “The Youngest Journalist in Palestine” and is referred to as one of the youngest journalists in the world. She originally started using her mother’s iPhone to capture videos of protests near her home and uploading them to Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and YouTube. Eventually,​ she began covering events and marches in Jerusalem and Jordan. She is fluent and reports in Arabic and in English. She has over 270,000 followers on Facebook.

In 2017 she, hosted by the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, came to South Africa to spread awareness about the violence in occupied Palestine as part of the Pals4Peace tour with the Shamsaan Children of Palestine.
Janna has been handed the International Benevolence Award, by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The ceremony took place in Istanbul, Turkey.


The documentary Radiance of Resistance.

The documentary was filmed and produced when Janna was only nine years old. The documentary starts with visuals of a war torn Palestine, we follow the foot steps of two young activists who walk proudly, holding the Palestine flag, chanting what could be identified as a struggle songs, these two characters are Janna Jihad and her cousin Ahed Tammim. We see visuals of Janna visiting a beautiful and sacred place know as the Al-Aqsa mosque, to children playing soccer, revealing her love for the game. We also witness these brave children going up and facing the soldiers and demanding their rights be heard, with the soldiers either retaliating by laughing at them or throwing grenades back at them.
We are made aware of some of the opposition tactics of shooting women in the legs, thus crippling and disarming them, however,​ these attacks have not stopped their sprint and fight.
I particularly like the fact that the filmmaker showed us that despite the children living under such violent circumstances, they still find the time to be children. We follow the protagonist as she goes to school performs her daily activities of waking up, brushing her teeth and brushing her hair. We follow as she still allows her tradition and culture to be rooted in her existence through her learning and practising traditional and cultural dances.

Janna the voice.
When asked who she wants to become, she proudly said, “There are five things that I will become. First is to study political science, so I can learn about the governments around the world, second to become a journalist, third is to be an artist to illustrate what has been happening to children in Palestine, fourth is to become a fashion designer to keep the Palestinian culture and tradition alive and the fifth thing she will become a soccer player. Her favourite player is Neimar.

She would like to work for CNN or Fox News one day so that she can “show the truth, because they do not show the truth”.
“Or I can make my own channel – JNN News,” she laughed.

Jihad said life under Israeli occupation was extremely tough.
“There are lots of difficulties like seeing people getting killed in front of you, getting injured, getting arrested, and issues like child prisoners … It’s a very hard life living under occupation.”
Even getting to school can turn into a nightmare. Jihad’s school is about 25 minutes from her home, but with the Israeli army’s checkpoints, the journey can take three hours.

Janna’s mother, Nawal Tamimi was also present and I asked her how she felt about her daughter doing the work that she does, I also asked her how she felt about the fact that many people criticised them for allowing their children to be at the forefront of a war and that they had been named as bring reckless parents.
Her answer: She was afraid for her daughter’s safety but she supported her.
“For me,​ Janna is a baby, but I am going to support her. I am really proud of her,”. In relation to allowing her children to be at the forefront, she said it has been a brave decision to educate their children about the realities of war so they are not shielded or have a clouded view on it. Their lives are a ticking time bomb and the reality is that at any time, a grenade, missile or bomb can be launched on them, so they need to be woke and ready. The reality of police raids on their homes has become a way of life. These children have seen murders and violence at face value and being part of the solution also helps them in the journey. Tamimi was also worried about Jihad being arrested now that she was 12-years-old and viewed as an adult by the Israeli army.

That is Janna at the film​ screening with her mum.

Speaking on her cousins arrest, Janna said:
“Ahed is my cousin and my best friend, she was arrested for trying to defend her home and not letting soldiers come into her home and shoot [gas] canisters at children who were playing.”

Despite the difficulties she faced, Jihad firmly believes there will be peace in Palestine.
“We can live together … under one government, one law, with the same equal rights,” she said.
And to those who believe that Israel was not an apartheid state and that the Palestinians were the problem, Jihad had this message: “You’re welcome to come to Palestine and see for yourself.” “I don’t want to say we are victims. We are victims in many ways, but mostly we’re freedom fighters and just people who want to live in freedom and peace and equality.”

Her parting words were:
“Let every child live in peace, live in love, live in equality. Let every child know what a childhood means,”.
I had to grab a selfie, with this powerful warrior.

For more information on 2 Suns Shamsaan:


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