“Without a doubt, my suffering is not so different from that of other Palestine refugee women,” says Sobhia Yousif Hassan Abed-El Nabi from Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip. Sobhia comes from a modest family with a sad history. Her father was unable to work due to his health, so her mother was the breadwinner for their family. In 1971, Sobhia lost three of her brothers amid the violence and conflict that that characterized Palestine during this time, all within an eight-month period. “My family house was shelled during the hostilities,” she recalls. “In spite of these disastrous circumstances, I insisted on having a university degree.”
Upon graduation, Sobhia got a job at an UNRWA school. But Sobhia continued to face many challenges and sad memories. “I gave birth to two children, and when I was pregnant with the third one, my husband was jailed in an Israeli prison during the first intifada,” she explains. Shortly afterward, Sobhia moved with her children to a house near her parents; with their support, she was able to raise her three children, but her husband’s absence was always felt.
When he was finally released, Sobhia gave birth to three more children. However, shortly after that, he was once again detained. While waiting for his release the second time around, Sobhia began the process of building a new house for her family. When he was released, the psychosocial impact of her husband’s detention proved too much for their relationship – after a tense period of heated arguments, they ultimately decided to get a divorce. “I have passed through much pain and suffering, but I persisted as an independent woman – one who can support her family and build her future and her sons’ futures by herself, even after the divorce and the death of my parents and brothers,” she says.
“Without my UNRWA salary, I may not have been able to be so independent and provide my children with all their needs and help them get a good education. And without it, I wouldn’t have a house to shelter us. I thank UNRWA for your generous support – I am so grateful and the words can’t begin to describe my gratitude for giving me the opportunity to work in one of your schools.”