Tuesday, March 8th is International Women’s Day. It’s a day when we celebrate women around the world. We celebrate those who have gone before us and forged the way. We celebrate mothers, sisters, aunts, cousins, grandmothers, and friends. We celebrate those who inspire us and those who challenge us. This International Women’s Day, I celebrate the strength and courage of the refugee women I have met and worked with in the Middle East and Europe. Those who have been forced to flee from their homes because of war, violence, persecution, or lack of rights. Those who have risked everything for a better future for their families. Those who stand strong despite the difficulties they face in a foreign land, far from home. This IWD, I celebrate these amazing refugee women.
Outside a distribution of relief items in Jordan, Syrian refugee women share their refugee registration papers in hopes of receiving aid.
In Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan, which is home to nearly 80,000 Syrian refugees, a woman collects water to carry back to her living space.
Mothers, daughters, sisters, friends — A group of women walk through Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan, located just 7.5 miles from the border with Syria.
A Syrian refugee shields her eyes from the harsh sunlight as she walks out of one of the thousands of caravans at Zaatari camp. While refugees living in Zaatari camp previously lived in tents, today, all refugees now live in what are called caravans. (“Caravans” as they are called are basically small pre-fab houses given to each refugee family. They provide more protection against harsh weather conditions than tents do and are a somewhat permanent place where refugees can live.)
A Syrian woman in Zaatari camp invited me into her caravan. Over coffee, she told me about her life in Syrian, struggles in Jordan, and her hopes for the future.
In a community center outside of Amman, Jordan, a health educator registers Syrian refugee and vulnerable Jordanian women for a community awareness session on infant and young child feeding to help mothers raise healthier children despite the conditions they find themselves in.
A mother tends to her baby during a community awareness session on infant and young child feeding at a community center just outside of Amman, Jordan, in an area that is home to Syrian refugees, as well as vulnerable Jordanians who feel the strain of hosting so many refugees.
A two-year-old girl from Syria whose family fled to Jordan is screened for acute malnutrition by a community health educator.
Young Jordanian and Syrian women are trained to work with persons with disabilities, particularly those with vision or hearing impairments, in Jordan who are not receiving the assistance they need. The strain put on the local healthcare system as a result of the refugee crisis has meant that fewer people are receiving much-needed health and rehabilitation services.
A young Iraqi girl who made the journey safely from Turkey to the Greek island of Lesvos with her family stares out across the sea following her safe arrival.
Thousands of life vests are piled up on the “life jacket graveyard” on the Greek island of Lesvos where thousands of refugees have arrived from Turkey. Here, a little girl’s life vest sits among the thousands more (more of which are fake or not meant for being used at sea) as a stark reminder of how many women and children are also making the risky trip across the Aegean each day.
I want to dedicate this International Women’s Day post to a special woman who I lost this year — my grandmother. Christine was the mother of two boys and grandmother of three girls. She grew up in a small town in the South and lived next door to her sister her whole adult life. She was proud to have graduated from high school, which not many women did in her day. She was a feisty woman — full of spunk who always let you know what she thought. She was kind and loving and such a wonderful grandmother. We used to “have a big ol’ time,” spending weekends and summers with her and my grandfather. She was strong in her faith, and she knew what she believed. Her Bible is one of her possessions that my family treasures most. Worn, written in, highlighted, and thoroughly read, it was never far from her side. I’m thankful that I had so many years with my grandmother and can only hope to grow to be a woman like her.
My sister and I pose with my grandmother (2nd from left) and her sister. Two very special ladies.