Shireen and her family left Syria in 2013 to escape the fighting. They now live in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.
Unable to find work as a refugee, Shireen desperately wanted to learn a new skill that could help her provide for her family. Shireen learnt how to sew, but she gained more than the ability to make clothes: she learnt about her worth and value as a woman.
Click on the video below to hear her story.
In November 2017, Shireen joined the Stronger Women, Stronger Nations programme and met other women like her. She learnt social, economic, and technical skills including how to sew and how to keep business records.
The programme helped Shireen to understand her value and has equipped her to pass on that knowledge to her daughters. She shared:
I can defend them and support their rights…they have rights in this life.
Passionate about women’s rights and issues such as child marriage, Shireen learnt that women and men should be equal:
"[A man] should not control her [his wife] by force, like 'you should do this or that,' and she would so it. No, she is also like you [man]. She should do whatever she likes and wants to do."
A man should not impose on her because he is a man and she is a woman. This is not right.
As part of the one-year programme Shireen chose to learn tailoring. With her new skills, knowledge of business and confidence, Shireen hopes to find work or open her own shop and help support her family.
I just want to do something, like work in a sewing store or a factory or start a sewing business at home.
Shireen was overjoyed when she graduated from the programme in 2018. “I loved it when I walked across the stage and received my certificate. When they read my name and I stepped up to the stage, I was thinking ‘I will open a shop’ and this certificate will be framed on the wall of my shop.…And, if a customer tries to tell me that my sewing is not professional, I would respond ‘what do you mean?
I have a certificate now. So, how is it not good?
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In July 1995, men and boys were massacred in Srebrenica during the genocide in Bosnia. Fazila lost male relatives but knew she had to rebuild her life for the sake of her daughter and the women in her community.
I will continue mobilising other women in the community in utilising the lessons I have learned, and I hope many more of them will be part of the training.
One of my friends told me about Women for Women International and how it provided training for women. That’s when I learned that I wasn’t alone in my suffering. There are other women, who have the same pain.