Faizah's story

You are here:


My name is Faizah

Faizah has always been brave – even aged 13, when her uncles tried to force her into marriage. So, when ISIS attacked her community and warned her not to flee, she harnessed that defiance and dared to find safety. Faizah dreams of a world without war.

Before ISIS attacked our community, we almost had a normal life. But we became displaced once the war began. We were so panicked leaving Mosul that we left all that we had where my husband and I lived with our two children. We were displaced more than once, and every escape was dangerous – we were hurt a lot. One time, we were apprehended by ISIS on our way, and they warned us never to leave again, but I knew we had taken a risk to find a better life.  

After moving several times, we finally reached Kurdistan. I went into a deep depression because of the things I saw during these bad days. We were isolated from our families and in a bad financial situation. But there was no choice: with my husband, I had to rebuild our lives from scratch. For the sake of my children and their future.  

Even as a child I was strong-minded.

My uncles tried to force me into marriage at 13 years old, but I dared to resist. I knew even then that I wanted to live on my own terms, and I fought to wait until I was 20. This is the kind of strength I gathered when I heard about the Women for Women International programme. At first, I hesitated to participate because I didn’t have the confidence to be among others and speak up and participate. I had nearly lost hope. I was living with bad depression and stress, thinking and living in the past while the fear of my family’s future persisted. But when I heard my neighbours speak positively about it, I collected my courage and decided to see what it was all about.

For Faizah's privacy and security, we are using a representative image of a woman in our programme in Iraq. Since the breakdown of ISIS’ control over Iraq and Syria, women like Faizah account for the majority of the 1.2 million displaced persons struggling to rebuild their lives in the aftermath. Based on our 2022 programme data, graduates averaged a score of 93% on a test measuring their knowledge of violence against women and human rights in a national context, compared to 77% at enrollment. They also averaged a score of 73% on a test measuring their knowledge of health and well-being compared to 52% at enrollment. Photo: Alison Baskerville

I can say that the programme was the best new start for myself and my family’s life.

My world made a 180-degree change from all sides.

My depression became less day by day as I met with new friends in my group. And by participating in class, I learnt to speak up with my husband and children at home. It was an amazing experience. My confidence was definitely boosted. Before, I didn’t have the courage to interact with people or have friends. I used to stay alone at home, but now I feel better and more relaxed when talking to others. 

The change was not only in myself. I brought the positive transformation to my family. I give them more attention, and seeing me more comfortable makes them happier. I have started my own business recycling clothes, which gives me an income that I use to support my husband. I have more ideas for business and when we are financially stable, I hope we will live in peace – away from conflicts.

And I am daring to dream.

I dream that my children can go to school and that they learn to be independent. And I dream of a future that has no wars.  


*For reasons of privacy and security, we are using a photo of a different Women for Women International programme graduate to represent the woman in the story. Her name has also been changed.


Women’s rights are under attack across the world, whether it’s our right to speak up against injustice, choose what to wear, or decide what happens to our bodies. 

But women dare to challenge oppression with acts of defiance — even in the most difficult and dangerous circumstances. 

Meet other women who dare



War has taken so much from Suzan – loved ones, financial security, stability – but she has always fought to protect her children. When her daughter became pregnant and faced forced marriage, Suzan dared to defy her family and communal pressures. And now, she helps others dare to do the same. This is her story.  



Despite years of violence at the hands of her partner, Chismidi had the strength to raise and provide for her four children. After leaving the relationship behind, she regained her voice and courage. #SheDares to stand up against child trafficking, even boldly standing in front of the President to advocate for the rights of women. This is her story.



In Afghanistan, Amina* dares to stand up for women’s rights. Women have been virtually erased from public life over the past two years: banned from parks, gyms, restaurants, most jobs and education. Opposing these restrictions is incredibly dangerous, but Amina dares to keep teaching in our training centre. She braves the constant scrutiny of government authorities and she dares to spread the word that education should be the right of every woman and girl.