Aesha Abdulrahman Abed Al Humied Abdallah, 46 years old, has been living her entire life as a Palestinian refugee in the city of Zarqa, Jordan's oldest Palestinian refugee camp. Her neighbor in Zarqa, the 35 year old Emelline Mahmoud Ilyas, is a Syrian refugee. She used to live in Damascus, but two years ago she fled to Jordan. Now her house in Damascus has been destroyed by bombings, and Emelline is part of ActionAid's fellowship program in Zarqa. She is managing a community circle for women and has been supporting Aesha and helped her making positive changes in her life.
The two women have lived very different lives. Aesha has been dealing with health issues since she gave birth to her daughter, who is now 14, and was daignosed with Hebatitis C after a blood transfusion went wrong. She became pregnant with her son, who is now 7, without knowing she was sick and he subsequently also got the illness. In addition, Aesha is suffering from diabetes and her daughter has a bad heart. Since her husband passed away one year ago, it has been difficult for Aesha to take care of herself and her children. "Now I am the father and the mother of my children," she says.
The last year has been difficult for the family. Aesha's children have been crying a lot, and Aesha has been feeling too weak to deal with it in the right way. "I was shouting at my children all the time and exposing them to nonphysical violence."
Emelline, who is a fellow in ActionAid's community program in Zarqa noticed her neighbor's vulnerable situation. She gave her psychosocial support and introduced her to the ActionAid community circle for women that Emelline is managing. Being a part of the program has made everything easier for Aesha, and she feels that both she and her children has changed: "Now we are communicating, and they care about me and say yes if I ask them to do something for me."
Aesha is grateful for the support she gets from Emelline, but when Emmelie left her house and life in Damascus because she wasn't feeling safe there anymore, she wouldn't have predicted that she would be helping women in Jordan as she is doing today. "When I first came to Zarqa, I was afraid to connect with people and was worried about being sent back to a camp or to Syria."
Fleeing from Syria resulted in Emmeline feeling a lot of stress, and she became violent towards her children and didn't talk to her husband. She came into contact with ActionAid who provided her with psychosocial support and taught her about women's rights. "Now I know women's rights. In Damascus I didn't know that they existed."
In Syria, Emmeline had a job, but Zarqa is a more conservative community, and in the beginning her husband didn't want her to leave the house. After Emelline and her husband took part in fellowship sessions, and gained knowledge about women’s rights, Emmeline chose to stand up and communicate to her husband about how she felt trapped, and now she is participating and helping others in the community. She has been distributing non-food items and is managing a community circle for women, where she amongst other things, has conducted child protection training.
"The community circle is a safe space to talk. The women think that they are the only one having health problems or other problems, but through talking to other women in the community circle, they realize that there are other women who are having the same problems."
For Emmeline the outcome of the fellowship program is clear. "Now there is something to do in life for Syrian women in Jordan like me," she says.
She is happy that she through ActionAid's program is able to help women not feeling alone and making them aware of their rights.