Syrian women speak: Rawda’s story

Syrian women speak: Rawda’s story

2/15/17

Rawda*, 46, worked from her home when she lived with her family near Homs, Syria. Today she lives in Tripoli with her youngest children.

“When we arrived in Lebanon, we stayed with my sister. There were 30 people living in her small apartment”

I fled to Lebanon three years ago, in 2013. My husband was killed in the war. Our youngest son never knew his father.  

After the war began, our life in Syria was too difficult. My husband was missing. There was no access to anything. I had no money, no food, and I needed diapers for the baby.  At first, I looked for work, but there were sectarian divisions in our community and no one would hire me. I asked in pharmaceutical factories, I even offered to clean homes.  I tried everything.  

When we arrived in Lebanon, we stayed with my sister. There were 30 people living in her small apartment. There was no room on the floor to sleep. We couldn’t stay there.  Then a family offered us a room, but there were no windows and too much water was leaking in from the roof.

My son-in-law found this apartment. There are seven of us living here: my daughter and son-in-law, their two children, and me with my sons, Mohammad,14, and Abdallah, 4.  

We pay US$165 for rent. I couldn’t afford it on my own. As a widow, I receive aid from the local mosques, about $120/month. I contribute what I can to household expenses, for food and supplies. My son-in-law was selling coffee on the street, now he sells shoes.  

“Since the war, the situation has changed a lot for women. We have so many more responsibilities”

In Syria, we rented a two room apartment. I worked at home and my husband worked in a dairy. He would bring milk and I would make yogurt and cheese that we sold to shops.My husband didn’t help a lot in the house, except after my back surgery he recognized I was unable to do much, and then he was a very good help. I still suffer from some paralysis, in my leg and my foot.  

Since the war, the situation has changed a lot for women. We have so many more responsibilities. Of course we had some responsibilities around the house before, but since the conflict began, the roles have changed. We exchanged roles. Men used to work, they had the work experience. But today in Lebanon there are no jobs, or if there is work, they are underpaid – and a man’s dignity cannot accept this easily.   

So more women are going out, now, even if the husband is not there. The whole responsibility is on the woman now. In Lebanon, I learned to sew and I worked for awhile, but my paralysis made it difficult to continue. I can’t do it physically anymore.

Most families can barely pay the rent, they suffer from a shortage of medicine, and housing is bad. Children are sick more often. There’s always a new challenge, another difficulty.

“My greatest wish is for things to return to what they were before”

I don’t think of resettlement, especially if my children were old enough to work and care for me. We do need health care as my granddaughter has a bad heart. But I would never choose to leave just to get work.  

My greatest wish is for things to return to what they were before – peaceful – and my children could return to school. In Syria, my two eldest daughters completed high school. In Lebanon, my son is attending an informal school and it’s not the same. He needs more formal education. That’s what we wish for – to be able to proceed with life.

It is difficult here, but life does not end when a loved one disappears, or when you flee your country, or lose your home. You have to continue your life. You can’t just stop life.  It doesn’t end. This is what God has written for us.   

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