Syrian women refugees: Ready to lead the way

By: 
CARE
Yasmin, a member of a CARE Women Leadership Council in Jordan

Two Syrian refugee women in Jordan describe how taking part in CARE’s Women Leadership Councils initiative has transformed their lives – and points the way forward for refugee women responding to the Syrian crisis.

Yasmin

I’ve always been a housewife: our culture and traditions in Idleb forbid us to go out and engage in an active life. I finished the ninth grade and settled like most girls do in my town. In 2012, life became unbearable with the war, so my husband and I gathered our five children and we left to Jordan. It was so difficult; we suffered to find a house for our family, but like everything else in life, it got easier.

I enrolled with CARE as soon as we settled down, then two years later, I took a sewing workshop in order to learn a vocation. I must have done something right during that workshop because last year, CARE called me again and asked if I’d like to be interviewed for a spot in the Women Leadership Council.

I had my doubts. I went to the interviewer and told her that they must have something wrong because I don’t have a proper education.

But she reassured me that this isn’t about education, but about leadership. Who knew that I had that within me.

My role in the Women Leadership Council along with others is to ensure that the voices of women, especially Syrian women, are communicated to organisations and stakeholders through CARE. We also listen to people in general and note down their challenges so that we can in turn formulate them in a better sense and present to organisations.

The most important topics that we are tackling right now are around gender-based violence and early and forced child marriage.

I can visibly see a difference in myself, my personality, and the way I deal with people and situations. As I said earlier, I was a housewife! Now after the training courses that we participated in, I leave my house, I know how to deal with situations, and I even stand in front of large numbers of people to talk about certain topics and issues.

I also see how my husband and children look at me in a different way; I can sense that they are proud of me.

Maybe in five years I will become a professional trainer specialising on the topic of early and forced child marriage.

I’m 38 years old now but I got married at an early age myself, but thanks to the platform that CARE has given me, I am a changed woman.

My eldest daughter is now 18 years old, but I will never allow her marriage before she finishes her university education.

Woman's hands holding a notebook
Amani* holding a notebook that contains all the lessons that she prepares

Amani*

I have a very complicated life. I’m a divorced mother of three children; two boys and one girl. Originally, I’m from Golan, but you know, people from the Golan have been seeking refuge for a very long time, so my family lived in Daraa.

I got married to my cousin when I was 16 in the most traditional way. My parents told me that I do not have another choice, nor will I get a better chance to get married.

I dropped out of school, and dropped my dream of becoming a pharmacist entirely.

I’ve been married for almost 20 years, and during these years I’ve seen more suffering than words can describe.

I took on the responsibility of being a wife, a mother, and a daughter in law while I was just a child. I’ve spent more days at my parents’ house than at my own home. He [her husband] would treat me like dirt, kick me out when he feels like it.

It was horrible. Society wasn’t helpful to my case either as I would be looked down on if I got a divorce.

When the war started, I took my children and went to live with my parents in Daraa. But I faced so many problems there too. I don’t have an education, job, or steady income. There were no schools for the children to go to.

So I decided that I would take the biggest risk of my life and move to Jordan. Start a new life somehow with just my children and myself.

Although it was hard at the beginning, I found a lot of support as soon as I found CARE.

When they saw that I was a woman on my own and knew that my husband and his family don’t support me or my children anymore, I received more psycho-social support and training. I was taught on the positive coping mechanisms in life, and I was able to stand on my own after being dependent most of my life.

I work now, and I create initiatives for others to benefit the way I did. My whole personality has changed, and I feel more empowered as a woman and as a mother.

I am working on improving myself so that I can improve the quality of life for my children, they shouldn’t suffer like I did. I am finishing my education on my own, and I don’t let an opportunity pass me by without taking it.

I did many courses on every topic that you can imagine, and developed myself to the point where I am now teaching English to the women here at the Women Leadership Council.

I see that the women have a very strong interest in this topic. I teach them the basics regarding numbers, letters, colours and body parts. It seems like a boring thing to do, but the joy I feel knowing that some of these women look up to me, and learn from me is really exhilarating.

I also feel that I’m giving back and passing forward some of what was given to me during my most difficult times.

I truly see what effect my lessons have on these women, especially when I see that one of them is going through a difficult time; my words to her matter, they listen. Most women come to me now and ask if they can invite their friends who want to learn as well.

In the future, hopefully the near future, I want to learn more, and eventually become a true leader. I want to change myself so that I can change everything around me.

*Name changed at the request of the interviewee

Read this CARE Insights blog for more on the Syrian Women Leadership Councils initiative and other priorities proposed by CARE to strengthen women's rights in the response to the Syria crisis.

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