In the words of Rama: “I have realized half of my dreams. Now I need to realize the other half”

Date: Monday, August 17, 2020

21-year-old Rama drawing at a women’s shelter where she has taken refuge since 2015. Photos: Courtesy of MoLSA

In 2015, Rama*, who was then 16 years old, sought protection from her husband at a women’s shelter run by the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (MoLSA) in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. This is one of four shelters supported by UN Women’s regional programme “Strengthening the Resilience of Syrian Women and Girls and Host Communities in Iraq, Jordan and Turkey,” funded by the European Union Regional Trust Fund in response to the Syrian Crisis (the EU Madad Fund). The regional project was launched in Iraq 2018 to promote women's resilience and empowerment through creating livelihood opportunities and providing protection and support to gender-based violence survivors.

“Because of norms and traditions, my family forced me to drop out of school at the age of 15 to marry a man I did not love.  A year later, I became a mother when I still needed mine. One day, my husband accused me of cheating on him and threatened to kill me. So, the court ordered me to go to a women’s shelter. I was suffering from poor physical and psychological health. I had anxiety and I could not eat or sleep. But the warm reception I got from the shelter staff made me feel better. They have encouraged me to be strong in the face of hardships.

I was in the shelter when the ‘Madad’ project started. I’ve participated in many of its activities, including handicraft workshops, physical exercises, drawing lessons and one-on-one psychological counseling sessions. There are also vocational trainings for sewing, handicrafts and baking to help survivors learn new skills to make a living. I have participated in the sewing courses and I have become a skilled seamstress.

Ever since I was a child, I had a talent for drawing but I did not have the chance to develop my skills. Here, I’ve participated in drawing classes. This has helped me deal with my anxiety and stress by expressing my emotions through drawing and painting.

I also used to dream of going to a gym, but my family did not allow me. Thanks to the Madad project, the shelter refurbished the fitness room. There are exercise courses to improve our physical fitness and wellbeing. This was a great opportunity for me to realize my dream of working out. I’ve eagerly participated in group courses. With time, I’ve become an expert in using the gym equipment, and now I am a fitness instructor for the other survivors. 

To make use of my spare time and learn new things, I regularly borrow books from the shelter’s library.  Thanks to all this support, I feel much better and have realized half of my dreams. Now I need to realize the other half; to resolve my problems with my family, reunite with my son and continue my studies. I want to use my new skills to start a business so I can depend on myself.”

*The interviewee’s name was changed to protect her identity and privacy. The name of the shelter is not disclosed to protect the privacy of the residents and staff.