Fourteen years ago, Salma’s* husband died, leaving her and their six children behind. “It was a very difficult time for me, but when I started working on a farm, things got better and I was able to provide for my children,” recalls the 47-year-old. It was when Salma finally felt that she and her children would be able to live a decent life again, that the war in Syria started.
“The hardest thing was when the fighting intensified in our village. Everybody around us fled and left for safer grounds, and I just didn’t know what to do or where to go. I had no one. I looked at our small motorcycle, took my six children, one on top of the other so we would all fit, and carried the bare necessities in my hands. I remember that day I couldn’t help but cry,” Salma says.
Salma, a widowed mother of 6, describes how her life has changed since the war in Syria began. (Credit: Abdullah Hammam/Syria Resilience Consortium)
Eight years of war have left 11.7 million people in Syria in need of humanitarian assistance. Like Salma, millions are struggling to survive, fearing for the lives and well-being of their children. Since 2011, half of the Syrian population fled their homes and became displaced, either inside or outside the country. Women and children have been affected the worst by the crisis.
Salma struggled to provide for her family while the fighting was ongoing. “I lost my job when the war started. I had no income and could not buy food for my children. Sometimes I would go to the bakery to ask for some bread,” Salma says.
The war destroyed over 50 per cent of basic social infrastructure in Syria, and it is estimated that three in four people are not involved in any income-generating activities. The unemployment rate is staggeringly high. When the fighting in their village stopped, Salma and her children returned to their home. Salma found some work on the farm again, but it was not enough to cover their basic needs.
When Salma learned about CARE’s support for women, she immediately applied. “As soon as I heard about it, I went and registered.” As part of the Syria Resilience Consortium, CARE and other organizations support women through economic empowerment and livelihood programs. Since 2016, the consortium helped over 1 million women in desperate need in Syria.
“When I registered, I told them that I can make yogurt and different types of cheese. They told me: ‘Then this will be your project.’” Salma received training and a business grant to start her work. She bought a cow and all the necessary tools and equipment.
“Looking back at how my life changed now that I have my own cow and my own business, I am just so very happy. I have worked very hard and I succeeded. In the past, I used to ask for some milk from the neighbors to give my children. Now, I make my own milk, cheese and yogurt,” she says.
“Through this difficult journey I have learned that a woman should seize every opportunity she gets. I learned that women are strong, but we must fight to provide for our families, especially when we are on our own. Now, my only hope is that Syria returns to how it used to be eight years ago. I hope that we would walk in the streets again without being afraid for our lives and that my children will live in peace. I also hope I will be able to buy another cow one day.”
Learn more about CARE's work in Syria.
*Names have been changed to protect the identity of individuals.«All Stories and Blogs