Screaming out loud: Syrian women tell stories of war and struggle

By Maura Hart
Photo: Caroline Gluck/Oxfam

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The mother of five children, Hamida is a member of ARDD-Legal Aid’s Voice project, which aims to elevate the voices of Syrian people who fled the conflict in their home country and are now living in refugee camps or host communities in nearby Jordan. With support from Oxfam, the project gives refugees the ability to raise their concerns, daily struggles, and aspirations to “citizen journalists” like Hamida who help give people a sense of dignity by telling their stories and working to generate a response.

“Hopefully, this project, now and later, can help us and others. Syria is destroyed and it will need people to rebuild it,” said Hamida. “We can help people who have psychological problems or need cash assistance.  Syrian women have lost a lot and many need someone to take their hands and help them to rebuild and rehabilitate their lives.”

Hamida is one of five women citizen journalists for the Voice project in Khaldiyyeh, a host community for refugees in the Mafraq governorate in northeast Jordan. The women are trained to collect stories and take photos throughout their communities. They meet once a week with the Voice project team in Amman, the capitol of Jordan, for awareness-raising sessions on various topics, including women’s leadership and time management. They are paid 170 Jordanian pounds (around $240) per month.

Hamida is originally from Homs, a city in western Syria badly affected by the civil war, where she was a housewife and her husband ran a supermarket. The family left for Jordan eight months ago after a bomb fell nearby, half-destroying their home.

“My life was turned upside down by the crisis. In Syria, my husband used to take care of everything and provide for us. I dealt with the children. But now, I have to work…I don’t want to stay with my hands folded as a person; I want an outlet to do something; to get our concerns heard. I feel relieved to be doing this and to have people listening to us. My freedom as a woman started with the beginning of this project,” said Hamida.

“There are a lot of things that have shocked me since I started this work.  I have seen many people living in houses that aren’t even fit for animals; I’ve seen many refugees who don’t know what to do, or where to turn; I’ve met many people who have suffered injuries from the war.

“I felt that this project gave me back my humanity that I’d lost for a while. It let me scream out loud.”

Hamida hopes the Voice project will not only help women refugees rebuild their lives, but also show the world that Syrian women are strong, successful, and supporting their families in crisis.

“I’ve come across some stories where women are trying to work even more than men here…Most men here are in a psychological state where they are very depressed. They’ve been used to be able to provide for everything and now feel they can’t do anything.

“Sometimes I think the outside world has a wrong view of Syria and women’s roles. They should know that Syrian society is open-minded, that women often work. Women are loved by their husbands and children and they really want to see us grow.

“I feel free and liberated doing this work.  It has given me a lot of confidence…I have to stay strong and not give up. My family and husband depend on me… But more important to me than the monetary help we get from the project is the psychological support it’s given me.”

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