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Programme participants at an information awareness session. Photo: Concern WorldwideProgramme participants at an information awareness session. Photo: Concern WorldwideProgramme participants at an information awareness session. Photo: Concern Worldwide

How a Syrian mother learned to ‘love life’ after surviving violence and oppression

How a Syrian mother learned to ‘love life’ after surviving violence and oppression
Story13 August 2020Jason Kennedy

Fatma* is a 32-year-old mother of five who has experienced more hardship in her young life than anyone should. Having endured abuse from her husband and brothers, Fatma had little hope for a happy future, but with some support from Concern, she managed to turn her world around.

A life without support

Fatma grew up in Syria and never attended school. She married at a young age, having her first child when she was 18. The conflict forced Fatma, her children and husband to flee their home to start a new life in Turkey. During this time, Fatma was dealing with physical violence from her husband and psychological abuse from her brothers.

Fatma relied on her husband to ensure that the family were kept safe and secure, as well as financially stable. One day, Fatma’s husband decided to move back to Syria and cancelled the temporary protection registration of the whole family, which allows them to receive financial assistance and to access services such as health care and education.

Fatma decided to stay in Turkey with her children but this made life extremely difficult because Fatma and her children were vulnerable and now had to fend for themselves.

During this time, Fatma heard from one of her neighbours about Concern’s information and awareness-raising sessions at the local Protection hub.

In February 2020, a Gender-Based Violence (GBV) Officer and legal counsellor conducted two sessions at the hub on Positive Parenting and Early Marriage. After attending the sessions, Fatma asked the legal counsellor to meet her individually.

This was the first step towards changing her life.

Support for a survivor

After sharing her story with local officers, Fatma started receiving support from Concern’s Protection Programme, which is funded by EU Humanitarian Aid. As with all Case Management (CM) provided, and in particular as Fatma was a survivor of GBV, her case was handled sensitively to ensure her safety and dignity.

All assessments and interviews were held at the Protection Hub, as it was the safest place for Fatma. To ensure a culturally-appropriate and tailored intervention, the team supporting the case included a female Protection Assistant, a female Psychologist, a female Legal Counsellor and a female SGBV Officer.

The first priority was to provide the family with a safe place to live and then registering the children in school, since the eldest child - a 12-year-old boy - was working in a small shop to support his mother and siblings, as he felt it was his duty.

Swift interventions

Through the individual counselling sessions conducted with the Legal Counsellor and the SGBV Officer, Fatma and her children were able to reactive their temporary protection registration and to access financial assistance, education and health care again.

Concern's Protection Team found a suitable house for the family and paid three months of rent to help them to get on their feet. For the first time, Fatma started to work and found a job selling vegetables. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has now temporarily suspended her employment so Concern has provided another three months of rent to ensure Fatma and her family are kept safe.

All of Fatma's children are now enrolled at school, (due to COVID19 restrictions classes are provided remotely.) Her eldest boy, who had been working, is now taking part in Concern’s Education Fighting Child Labour programme, and receives a monthly financial stipend from an alternative donor to ensure the family meet their basic needs.

With funding from EU Humanitarian Aid, Items such as mattresses, blankets, pillows, and a heater were also provided by Concern, as well as supermarket gift cards to buy food and other basic needs.

A path to goodness

Fatma's new life is completely unrecognisable from the way she was living mere months ago. Her self-confidence has improved and she feels that she has developed a deep trust with the Concern team following her case. She mentioned during one of the interviews that she is now using skincare products, stating that she never had the chance to do it before, but now she wants to spend more time taking care of herself.

“I think that if I had not got the chance to know that there is an organisation called Concern Worldwide, my life could have taken a totally destructive path," she explains.

The circumstances that I experienced had made my life hell. However, I now have started to love life and to devote more attention to my children. Since I found Concern, I have experienced different paths to goodness and peace of mind.

Fatma - Mother of five

Fatma said that if she ever encounters other women who are GBV survivors, she will point them towards the same supports that she benefitted from.

"I will advise her to go to Concern, where she will find different paths of freedom, comfort and independence."

*For safety and security reasons, we have changed Fatma's name and did not show her or her family's faces.

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