The theme for International Women’s Day 2017 is “Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030”. The world of work, both formal and informal, is rapidly changing for women. Globalization, development and global cultural shifts mean more women are working, earning wages for that work, and engaging in unpaid informal work in the home. Programs like ours at Women for Women International encourage women to gain skills and enter the workforce help to achieve the goal of an equitable workforce by 2030. Below is a story of Syrian refugee Shorash, a program participant in Northern Iraq whose name means “rebellion” in Kurdish, a recent graduate who is using her new-found knowledge to explore owning her own business with the support of her husband.
Shorash is 23 years old and lives in Northern Iraq where our program is operational. When living in Syria became too difficult, Shorash along with her parents and siblings fled to Turkey. They walked to the Turkish border only carrying essentials, typical of other Syrian refugees who leave their homes with nothing. At the Turkish border, they were kept there for several days without food or water. Finally, they were allowed into Turkey where they knew no one and had nowhere to go. Shorash and her family spent almost three months sleeping in a park in Turkey before they decided to make their way to Northern Iraq. Finally, they reached the Darren Shikran refugee camp where she spent three months and then moved to Erbil where she met and married her husband.
Erbil became Shorash’s new home, but living in a foreign country came with difficulties. She looked in vain for a job and became frustrated when she found no success. One day, her husband came home from work and told Shorash about a local women’s center set up by Women for Women International and Warvin Foundation for Women’s Issues. There, Syrian refugee women could participate in training courses. He told Shorash that the people running the center cared about women refugees like her and would help improve her chances of finding a job or setting up or setting up her own business. Excited, Shorash went to the center and signed up immediately.
Shorash was inspired and interested in the business skills courses. She says, “I developed a plan for setting up a greenhouse construction business with the support of my husband.” Every day, Shorash attended all classes without fail and even sat for her final exams on the day she gave birth to her baby daughter Nalin. She rebelled against societal norms that say women with children are relegated to the home. Shorash completed her studies while being pregnant, living up to her strong name.
Shorash’s rebellion against society is part of the impact of the Women for Women International program. She says, “the program changed my life; I no longer feel lonely and isolated as before. Through the program, I got to know other Syrian women in the neighborhood and the center manager helped me connect with other services available for Syrian refugees. I have been sharing my knowledge about women’s rights and how to prevent violence against women and girls with women in my community.” In sharing knowledge about domestic violence with her fellow Syrian refugees, Shorash encourages her community to rebel against a society where domestic violence and conflict are often everyday occurrences.
This International Women’s Day, we at Women for Women International are proud the strong, resilient, and rebellious spirits of women we serve. Women like Shorash who will share their knowledge with their community and bring the change that will lead to lasting peace in conflict zones. We know that others in the community will benefit from her entrepreneurial and rebellious spirit!
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