Saturday, October 22, 2016

Wonder Woman? Really? What about Nujeen Mustafa?

I don't know that I really need to weigh in on the United Nations' surprise announcement yesterday that the comic-book character Wonder Woman is to be the new UN Honorary Ambassador for the Empowerment of Women and Girls, but it is certainly an interesting choice.
And, of course, a contentious one. Some say: what better choice than a strong, kick-ass heroine, who never backs down and is willing to take on anyone, even Superman himself. Others say: how could they think of selecting a fictional, overtly-sexualized figure like Wonder Woman when there are many other real-life role models available? The announcement even elicited a silent protest from some UN staffers.
Now, I haven't actually read a Wonder Woman comic since the early 1970s, but my memory is not really of some feminist icon, just a vaguely hot dame in a skimpy outfit, with rather lame powers and a poor and way-too-earnest line in fight patter. But then I was a 13 year old boy in an unstylish backwater of northern England.
I suppose my reaction to the UN's choice falls on the side of "could have done better", and preferably with a real, live person.
Soon after I heard the Wonder Woman news yesterday, I also happened to listen to an interview on BC Radio with a wonderful young Syrian refugee now living in Cologne, Germany. 14-year old Nujeen Mustafa fled war-torn Aleppo, Syria, with her sister and undertook the perilous 16-month trek through Turkey, Greece, Macedonia, Serbia, Hungary, and finally to safety in Germany, where she now attends (and excels in) school and leads a reasonably normal life. Oh, and did I mention that she has cerebral palsy and is confined to a wheelchair?
Speaking almost perfect idiomatic English that she taught herself from television programs as a child, Nujeen relates her woeful tale with an amazing brightness and positivity. It is well worth your while listening to this terrific young woman - she also has a new book out, Nujeen: One Girl's Incredible Journey from War-Torn Syria in a Wheelchair - and I thought at the time what a great ambassador she makes for refugees and girls in general.
Nujeen gets my vote.

In mid-December, Wonder Woman was summarily dropped from her contentious new UN position. UN spokespeople hastily asserted that it was never intended to last long anyway, but less than two months...?

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