Women leading peace in Syria

Syria has entered its seventh year of crisis. The scale, complexity and severity of the situation and individual needs is as overwhelming as ever.

Jesuit Missions supports the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) Middle East who have a centre in Damascus and Aleppo providing access to literacy workshops for women.

Education is a basic need for all. Many women have grown up in a conservative environment and have been deprived of education in a society that sees men as the workers and women as housewives.

However, due to the conflict which has taken many men away from their family, women have been forced to become the breadwinners and often their illiteracy is holding them back from being able to find a job.

Another reason for their renewed motivation for learning is being able to communicate with other members of their families who have been forced to leave the country.

Amina Haj-Hussain attending a women’s centre in Aleppo, Syria

Fatima Zaidlani has just started attending one of the workshops supported by Jesuit Missions in Damascus and says, “I have a great desire to learn. All my sons are busy, and others are expatriates. I want to communicate with them.”

“We are helped to restore our dignity again by standing up with us to create a new life style,” said a woman who attends the literacy centre in Al-Sakhour in Aleppo. This women’s centre is the first of its type in Aleppo, Eastern Syria where illiteracy rates are highest. It welcomes women of all ages and has found that the more determined learners are often the older women.

“Since I was a child, I had a dream, a future, and a light to pursue, it was being able to get educated and being a successful woman”. Thirty-six-year-old Amina Haj-Hussain holds her first pen to write and transfers herself from being an illiterate person to an elementary-certificated dreamer. She lives in Aleppo with her mother and two sisters.

With the death of her father and two brothers, she was left to bear the burden of her family’s expenses and that’s when she came to the centre to learn. “This service was the key to develop our life and re-enter the hope into our life, the opening of the community centre was like a light into our darkness.”

This article was first published on Jesuit Missions' website.