I grew up watching princess movies: Cinderella, Mulan, Snow White, The Little Mermaid, etc.
There is debate surrounding these films’ depictions of women as weak and dependent on the “heroics” of men. While a worthy debate, I am not here to argue about that.
Instead, I’m here to tell you about a princess I met today who differs from films’ portrayals.
As with most princesses, her dress distinguishes her from others. It was made with a white, fluffy material that had pink accents along its seams. But, the reddish dirt here has been kicked up and now cloaks this white material. And the fit isn’t quite right – a few sizes too big so that the straps repeatedly fall off her shoulders. And, because of overuse, there are rips on its skirt.
There is no doubt that she inadvertently knows (or is learning) how to walk like a princess. Movies depict princesses perfecting their walks by carrying a stack of balanced books on their heads. It is commonplace for women here to carry items (far more heavy and misshapen than a stack of books) on their heads over long distances.
And, despite being no older than six years old, she can already capture people’s attention with a certain energy about her that makes people want to follow. I first saw her across a circle of people playing frisbee. She joined in opposite the side where I was standing. I smiled at her, and she noticed so placed her hands over her giggling mouth. Not knowing what to do, I did the same. In response, she moved her hands to the side of her head, and I did the same. It became a game of copy cat in which I followed her lead.
After the frisbee circled around a few more times, she moved so that she was standing right next to me. And, it was my honor and privilege to toss her the frisbee, which was followed by a celebration (jazz hands) regardless of her catching the frisbee or not.
With the makings to be a princess, she lacks a crucial prerequisite: a country. A princess has to have a country to call home.
The devastating fact I have failed to mention is the setting of our meeting. We travelled to a border town that splits northern Uganda and southern South Sudan and visited an immigration center that receives fleeing South Sudanese refugees.
Our princess is a South Sudanese refugee girl seeking security and stability in Uganda.
Cinderella had Jacques and Gus. Mulan had Mushu and a lucky cricket. Snow White had seven dwarves. Ariel had Flounder and Skuttle.
Our princess deserves the same support that these Disney princesses had in the form of health services, food supplies, and education.
May we all be the sidekicks that refugees both need and deserve.