One year on from the devastating earthquakes that hit southern Turkey and northwest Syria, killing over 55,000 people, women who have survived over 12 years of conflict and hardship, are holding families together and leading the long road to recovery by taking on new roles and responsibilities.
For Najla'a Al Sheikh, a 45-year-old woman who founded the women's shelter Kareemat, the past year has been difficult. Kareemat is ActionAid's local partner in Turkey and supports mainly Syrian women affected by the earthquake.
“When the earthquake happened, I left my house in slippers and without my hijab in the cold; it was snowing. I realised that women carried the biggest burden and although dealing with trauma, we still needed to take care of the needs of our families.”
“One of the challenges (after the earthquake) is that families lost their livelihoods, and many women were widowed. This was worsened by the jump in prices, leaving people unable to afford their growing needs,” she added.
Working with women volunteers, Kareemat has over the past one year been offering training to Syrian women to empower them economically.
“We train them on handcrafting in general, but some women-specific crafts as well so that they can make a living and provide for their families. We also offer psycho-social support to the women dealing with trauma from the earthquake,” added Najla’a.
One of Kareemat’s trainees, Shadia Abdou, a young cancer patient who recalls moving from the despair of the earthquake to the hope of a brighter future, said:
“I was devastated to learn that I had cancer and when the earthquake struck, it destroyed hospitals, and medicines became scarce, making access to medical care a nightmare for me.”
Shadia was determined to overcome her illness and the dire economic situation resulting from the earthquake. She learned hairdressing at Kareemat.
“I joined Kareemat because I wanted a change and so I took up the hairdressing training. I learned this skill and I now have a job. I work despite my illness and pain. I am too young to give up. I still have a long life ahead, hopefully. I want to build a future for my children and myself.”
ActionAid and its local partners have reached over 197,211 people through search and rescue operations, providing food, shelter and mental health support, and creating safe spaces for women.
Despite the resilience of women like Shadia and the work of humanitarian organisations, over 2.3 million women and girls of reproductive age desperately need economic, psycho-social support, and sexual, and reproductive healthcare in northwest Syria.
Razmi Farook, Regional Director for Asia and Humanitarian at ActionAid International, said:
“We celebrate the resilience and leadership of women and youth in rebuilding their lives in northwest Syria. However, more support is required for the communities to get back on their feet. Families are experiencing an extremely tough winter without warm clothes and proper shelter; they are still out in the cold. The world must not forget the suffering of these communities.”
To contact the ActionAid Press Office email firstname.lastname@example.org or call +263776665065.