International Women’s Day: The leaders among Syrian refugee women

Emiline: “I have rights, and I want to be able to live like everybody else.”

Emiline (above) is a married Syrian mother of three. When she fled from Syria to Jordan in 2012 with her husband and children, she found herself trapped inside four walls. She was too afraid to leave her home, and wouldn’t let her children leave either. Her husband couldn’t find work and they had no source of income. This turned their household into a place where no one felt happy, or even safe. Emiline says:

“I became a different person; I yelled at my kids, I stopped talking to my husband, and I locked myself in a room most of the time.”

The walls were closing in on me.

One day, a neighbour suggested to Emiline that she could try attending some of the awareness-raising sessions held by various NGOs. Emiline says:

“The first session I ever attended was at CARE, and it was about women’s rights. I remember going back home and telling my husband to take us back to Syria if this was how we were going to continue living.

I have rights, and I want to be able to live like everybody else.

“The next session I attended was about child abuse. I was heartbroken to know that my attitude and feelings were directly affecting my children.”

Emiline did not stop working to improve her life. Eventually she became one of the leaders at CARE’s Zarqa Women’s Leadership Council. She says:

“I now stand and talk to other women from a hurtful experience.

I tell them that I was exactly where they are now, and show them that I’m a live example of how things improve when you are determined to be better.

“My husband and children are so proud of me. I’m proud of myself.”

Portrait of Rihab

Rihab (above) lives in Zarqa, Jordan, along with her husband and five children. She became a member of CARE’s Zarqa Women’s Leadership Council when it first began in 2016. This was her first experience in a leadership role, and she was very new to topics such as gender, violence and human rights. She says:

I had no idea that refugee women had this many rights, until I was trained to become a trainer on these topics.

“When I was in Syria, I used to be a psychology and a sociology teacher in a boys’ school, which is why it was very difficult for me to be unemployed when I came to Jordan in 2013.

“I have always considered my children to be my greatest accomplishment in life. They are all very high achievers at school.

My second greatest achievement is that I was able to rise from a very dark place due to my work with CARE in the Council.

After a year and a half of training other women, the Council started initiatives that would help them reach a wider audience of Syrian women and educate them on the most important topics.

“My initiative was called ‘First Aid at Your Home’, where I taught 10 women basic first aid skills that can save their lives, or a family member’s life.”

They, in turn, would teach 10 other women all the life-saving skills that they learned.

Rihab explained that her work with CARE has also helped her work with other INGOs:

“I was able to build my CV and work with NRC and UNICEF as a leader for change. This also allowed me to be a leader in my own household and set an example for my children to be leaders as well.

My son is even enrolled in the CARE Youth Council because he always says that he wants to be just like me.

Women’s Leadership Councils (WLCs) enable Syrian women to take part in activism, promote gender-responsive and participatory monitoring practices, and participate in key decision-making processes within their local communities in Jordan.  Each council is made up of 12 members aged 18 and upwards. WLCs help raise the voices of Syrian women and girls by including them in policy-making and providing support to the women and girls in their communities.

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News and stories are provided by CARE staff working to support our emergency responses and long-term development programmes.