As part of the celebrations for International Women’s Day the UN media team in Syria profiled 15 women from all walks of life who have made a difference in the lives of their communities and families. Of these, UNRWA nominated three women who all overcame difficult circumstances to contribute to their communities.
Mervat Abu Jaas
Profession: Hairdresser and instructor
"My parents always told me that I wasn’t any different from other people, I only lacked the ability to hear and speak." Mervat’s disability made her afraid of the outside world, but one day her parents took her to attend a hairstyling course at the Syrian Women’s Union.
With the help of her family, Mervat overcame her fears and eventually opened her own salon. "I met other people with disabilities at the center, which really helped me." She also teaches girls with disabilities. "I tell them that we can overcome any obstacles as long as there is a will. They are not different from other people; they can live their dreams and be active members of their societies."
Rabia Abu Samir
Profession: Sewing teacher
"When my husband divorced me because we couldn’t have children, I decided to continue what I had started before getting married." Rabia now works as a sewing teacher, having taken courses at the UNRWA centre in the Husseinieh camp. She continued to study fashion design, while at the same time volunteering for development activities in her community. "Traditions and habits restrict divorced women’s rights; they are supposed to stay at home under their community’s supervision. But I decided not to be a prisoner of the difficult circumstances I found myself in," she said.
Profession: Chief of relief and social services at UNRWA
At the age of three Amneh became sick with polio, leaving her disabled and wheelchair-dependant. Her mother insisted on integrating Amneh into normal life and sent her to a regular school. "The community used to concentrate on my disability and neglect my abilities. They thought I could not be independent and productive – I always had to prove myself." After 15 years of working at UNRWA, she received a senior position at the Agency. "I believe I serve as a role model by being a woman in a senior position and disabled. It’s important that you believe that there is always a role for you to fill."