This series aims to shed light on the people who are the underlying driving force of change in the Jordanian society: The ordinary citizens with extraordinary ideas, stories or actions.
When it comes to human rights, breathing clean air is as basic as it gets. And for Zeina Shahzadah Majali, it’s a cause worth fighting for.
Given her dedication and enthusiasm as an anti-smoking activist, it’s almost impossible to believe that Zeina was once, in a time far gone, a smoker herself. The transformation wasn’t a result of a one defining wake-up call as one might expect, but rather a series of events starting from her pregnancy, her daughter turning out severely allergic to cigarette smoke and the final stroke being her mother getting seriously ill when exposed to second-hand smoking. At that point Zeina knew it wasn’t enough to just quit smoking, she had to take a stance.
With that notion in mind, Women Against Indoor Smoking in Jordan was born: a Facebook group empowering people, especially mothers, to fight for their children’s right to breathe a clean air, as well as empowering non-smokers in general to speak up, as well as rallying people to demand the implementation of our health law number 47 that prohibits public indoor smoking and the selling of tobacco products to people under 18. The group brings together an amazing group of volunteers who have been working so hard and donating their time and energy to make it happen.
When asked about smoking in Jordan, Zeina describes it as an epidemic, and even that is an understatement as you can’t go anywhere without spotting puffs of smoke crawling up through the air in closed public spaces, in cars and even at homes when visiting friends or relatives; which is the reason in her opinion why smoking is such a wide-spread phenomenon: Parents smoking at home, setting the worst example they can set for their children and making them accept and involuntarily get addicted to smoking. Moreover, another reason she says is that law makers and government officials break the law to smoke giving the impression to kids that smoking is really worth breaking the law over. Of course one must not fail to mention the other epidemic that is Hubbly-bubbly, or Argeeleh as it’s famously known in Jordan, which is a fixture in many coffee shops where it’s served to everyone who’s anyone even those under the legal age of 18.
The group isn’t just an online initiative; it also carries out events and activities to raise awareness about smoking in Jordan and rally public support for this cause that affects everyone of us, either directly or indirectly. One of those events was the World No Tobacco Day celebration that took place on the 3rd of June. The event included several activities where children could paint their own anti-smoking pictures along with slogans, as well as meeting the players of the national football team who showed their support for the cause, as well as a parade of Harley Davidson motorbikes, the owners of which were all non-smokers, of course. The event was a success and it was refreshing to see all these young people standing up together against smoking, and little children running around donning “No to smoking” T-shirts and collecting signatures for the petition demanding the enforcement of law #47. Instilling this kind of values and awareness in our children and setting the right kind of example for them is what we really need to influence change in our society in the long run, and that’s exactly what Zeina Shahzada Majali is doing with her fellow anti-smoking activists.
pictures from the event
Zeina believes that decreasing the number of smokers in Jordan could reflect very positively on our health system that wastes hundreds of millions annually on smoking related diseases. Moreover, youth could focus their energy and money on being productive members of the community instead of wasting their health and money at argeeleh places. Also, the number of children suffering from second hand smoking related allergies could decrease and we could also cut down on the horrific cancer figures.
According to Zeina, everyone can play a role in this, even smokers themselves, because even if they don’t want to quit smoking, at least they can work hard to make sure their children do not pick up this deadly habit. “We didn’t know any better when we picked up smoking but now we do” Zeina says. She also points out the alarming fact that smoking has killed more people in humanity history than any epidemic or war. Therefore she invites people to work towards a smoke free Jordan and the first step would be: the implementation of our health law number 47 that prohibits indoor smoking at public places.
You can follow Zeina and her initiative on Twitter @Nashmiyya and @SmokeFreeJo or join the facebook group
You can also read her recent article on 7iber here