Voices from Gaza: Hala's Journey of Resilience


Story originally published on UN Women Palestine‘s website

Internally displaced persons (IDPs) staying in UNRWA camp in Southern Gaza. Photo Credit: WHO

Even in the darkest times, the human spirit can shine with unwavering strength..."

Forty-seven-year-old single mother of four, Hala has not only survived domestic violence but has now emerged as a symbol of strength, hope, and compassion amidst the adversities of the ongoing war in Gaza. Her story is one of unwavering determination, self-improvement, and giving back to her community when they need it the most.

Hala lived in Al Bureij, located in the heart of Gaza, when the horrors of the war descended upon her and countless others. Forced to flee her home in a desperate search for safety, she sought refuge in one of the UNRWA schools nearby. However, her hopes were dashed when she was informed that she couldn't stay in the shelter as her name wasn't registered on the UNRWA list for that school. That night, Hala leaned against one of the school’s walls, a feeble shield against the terrifying chaos of war that raged outside. As she tried to sleep, she couldn't escape the fear etched on the faces of the women and children huddled around her. They were all united in their quest for refuge, but there was no true sanctuary to be found. In that profound moment, something ignited deep within Hala—a steely resolve to stand unwavering and provide unwavering support to those who, like her, had been thrust into this war.

The following day, Hala approached the shelter's manager, expressing her eagerness to volunteer. She offered her assistance in providing psychosocial counseling for the women and children sheltering at the school.

Hala further extended her support by helping resolve conflicts among the women in the shelter, maintaining hygiene standards, and providing psychological support to ease the burdens faced by those who had already endured so much.

Hala was met with rejection by the shelter manager, but her determination prevailed. She firmly reassured the manager that she wasn’t seeking food, only a safe place to sleep and to be able to help those in dire need. Upon her first encounter with the women in the shelter, Hala faced skepticism, as they questioned her credentials to offer support. However, she responded by listening and showing genuine empathy towards their struggles. She then initiated a therapeutic activity to provide an outlet for their emotions and encouraged them to participate.

As Hala extended her unwavering support and words of comfort, the women in the shelter gradually began to feel more comfortable. Her empathy and understanding helped quell their fears and anxieties.

Hala also inspired the women in the shelter to focus on the positive aspects of their situation, reminding them they were safe for now and they were not alone in their suffering. With her guidance, the women and children started to engage with Hala and each other, fostering a powerful sense of unity and rekindling hope within the shelter. "My humanity fuels my purpose,” she says. “Bringing joy to others is my lifeline."

"Hala's journey had already been marked by hardship. At the tender age of 18, she was forced into an unhappy marriage. Despite the objections of her husband, she pursued her education," Hala recounted. "Eventually, I found the courage to divorce my husband, escaping a toxic relationship, and dedicating myself to self-improvement. I took courses on various topics, from psychosocial support to gender, violence services, and women's rights," she continued, "and I embarked on a mission to empower myself and inspire others."

In the dire conditions of the shelter, with overcrowded rooms, poor hygiene, and limited resources, Hala played a crucial role in educating women and children on managing their hygiene needs, such as during menstruation, teaching them to cope and adapt. Their gratitude is a testament to the impact she has on their lives.

Hala dreams of becoming an entrepreneur, leading an organization wholly committed to empowering women. She perseveres through adversity and uncertainty, remaining a guiding light of hope, resilience, and determination. In her own words, Hala says, "I truly believe that empowering women is the key to a brighter future". Her unwavering strength showcases the resilience of the human spirit, even in the darkest of times.