“It is my favorite time reminiscing about the past,” said Ina’am Hadad, and it’s easy to understand why: Her impressive past illuminates the strides that not just she but also Palestine refugee women in general have made.
Now Dr. Hadad, Ina’am grew up with four sisters and two brothers in a low-income family in Jabal al-Kalaa, ‘the Citadel’ of Amman. Her father was a blacksmith, whose sole aim was to provide for the needs of his family. But when she graduated from high school, Ina’am was afraid that their financial situation would make it impossible for her to realize her ambitions, pushing her into an early marriage and a future as a housewife.
A university scholarship from the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) came in 1974 and marked a turning point, beginning a successful journey in the Faculty of Science at the University of Jordan. At the time, two years of pre-medical studies at the Faculty were a prerequisite for would-be doctors, and only those who excelled in the programme could then proceed to compete for a seat at the Faculty of Medicine.
Ina’am certainly excelled. She was among the 50 highest-scoring students, and embarked on five years at the Faculty of Medicine. After completing her internship, she worked in the Internal Medicine Department at the university hospital; three years later, she received a Masters degree in internal medicine. In 1985, she became a specialist in the field and took up a job at the Ministry of Health, where she spent 15 years before retiring.
Ina’am says, “All my attempts to provide gratitude to my parents have failed, but I am indebted to UNRWA for sponsoring my studies and supporting me, for giving me an incredible opportunity to obtain a degree in medicine, which has opened so many doors to the wonderful life I now enjoy.”
If the UNRWA scholarship she received in 1974 created a debt, Dr. Hadad has more than repaid it. She exemplifies the aim of the programme, which was established in 1955 to help academically gifted Palestine refugees access higher education. With those tools, they could further themselves and serve their community. Providing scholarships to women has been a particularly powerful tool.
Dr. Hadad gave back in very concrete ways. Even after retirement, she was not willing to sit idle at home with her husband (also an internist) and their three daughters and two sons. She has opened her own clinic, and from 2003 to 2007 and again from 2012 until the present, has worked at the UNRWA health centres in Baqa’a, Zarqa and Wihdat camps as an internist/cardiolist.
“I am working to serve the Palestine refugees,” Dr. Hadad says. “I sympathize with the needy refugee families who cannot afford treatment fees at outpatient clinics.” By giving back to the community the skills and training an UNRWA scholarship helped achieve, she represents a success of the scholarship programme as well as the continued strength and solidarity of Palestine refugee women.
Check out the album, 'The Long Journey of Palestine Refugee Women', to see if you can find a photograph of Dr. Hadad as a young scholarship student!