When Sara* met her friend in college, they became so close that she wanted her to be her sister-in-law. So it goes. In 1999, she marries her best friend’s brother, convinced that starting a family at 19 was the best thing for a girl. But this marriage was doomed to fail. Sara became the only breadwinner and had to run the household alone. Her husband didn’t want to work and relied solely on her. Though financial independence brought her strength and happiness, her income was so low that she could barely buy shampoos for her two children.
I dreamt of being a planetary scientist. I wanted to visit the moon. Maybe it’s part of what I stand for. We should all be free.
She asked her husband to look for a job but he refused, enjoying the life of online gaming until Sara came back home to prepare dinner. Adding fuel to fire, Sara had to deal with her mother-in-law who lived with them. The mother-in-law had free time but refused to take care of her grandchildren while Sara was at work. A neighbor finally agreed to care for the children. But Sara felt overwhelmed, bearing all the house, parenting and financial responsibilities alone. She decided to talk about the mental and financial burden with her husband. But he refuses to support her and verbally abuses her. Sara made the decision to file for a divorce. She took the children and moved back in with her parents. “When we went to the judge, I had to pay the divorce fees”, she says bitterly.
Cooped up in her family’s tiny apartment, Sara continued working hard to provide for her family. As her parents lived far from her office, she made a deal with a taxi driver for her daily commute to work. After a few months, the taxi driver picks her up from her workplace. It was that time of the end of the day when the sun begins to set. They both were animatedly discussing their daily lives. In a flash, the driver proposed to Sara. “You work hard. I want you to just stay at home and rest. I can take care of our family.”, he told her.
It feels like I’m under house arrest. I cannot go out unless his sister or my kids are with me.
Sara thought this second marriage would save her and could be a second chance at happiness. But little did she know that this was in fact a new prison for her. Sara lost custody of her two children from the first marriage. Her ex-partner forbade her to see them. “I suffered from the absence of my children. It was truly excruciating.”
Sara had three children with her new husband but that did make life easier. The new life brought her more financial stability, which she lacked in her previous marriage. However, she was still abused by a husband who forbade her to go out alone. “It feels like I’m under house arrest. I cannot go out unless his sister or my kids are with me.” When she tried to explain that she is used to walking freely and there is nothing to worry about, he would beat her. “Sometimes he gets so nervous he would kick me out, leaving me hours under the sun or rain.” “I would sit under the pavement for hours crying.”
Sara keeps looking back to that moment when she was at school. “I had excellent grades. I dreamt of being a planetary scientist. I wanted to visit the moon. Maybe it’s part of what I stand for. We should all be free.”
The therapy sessions here changed my whole emotional makeup.
A few years after her second marriage, Sara was walking with her 8-year-old daughter in their neighborhood. She sees women entering a center. It is the CARE Jordan center that offers therapy sessions and other trainings for women and girls. She steps in and talks to CARE staff members there. Her daughter finds a fun space to play. Sara finds the time and space to tell her story. “The therapy sessions here changed my whole emotional makeup. I met many women who endured terrible things. I used to think that what is happening to me is the most terrible thing. I used to take the pain and build terrible stories around it, and I suffered more. What I learned here is that I have a choice to trigger thoughts that make me a bit happier.”
*Name changed for protection