Today is International Women’s Day. A day where we celebrate ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in their countries and communities.
In honour of International Women’s Day, we spoke to three extraordinary women who are taking part in Jusoor’s 100 Syrian Women, 10,000 Lives Program which provides scholarship opportunities to Syrian women whose education has been disrupted by war. These women are future leaders and change makers. They will go on to build a better future for themselves and for future generations to come.
“Before I left Syria, I had a plan to study computer engineering, but the war changed everything.
I only took my books when I fled Syria because I believe in the power of education. I spent seven years of my life in Lebanon as a refugee. However, there was a lack of schooling opportunities in Lebanon. My refugee status and lack of official documents made it difficult to achieve my dream. I stopped my education for four years because of the war, but the war didn’t stop me from believing in the power of education as a way to survive and thrive. I voluntarily taught Syrian children in Lebanon for 7 years and worked with many NGOs providing education to the Syrian refugee community.
In 2018, I saw Jusoor’s scholarship on Facebook, and I applied to pursue my master’s in education at Wilfrid Laurier University with a focus on the effect of war trauma on education. I never imagined that I’d be accepted because of my refugee status. I came to Canada as an educated and powerful Syrian woman with one dream. Now every day I gain new experiences and knowledge that open my future to further dreams and plans.
During my scholarship, I continued my passion of working with refugees and supporting other Syrian students to pursue their right to education. I want to empower other students to make changes in society. In the future, I would like to do a master’s in social work so I can connect education and mental health to pursue my dream of creating a new school curriculum that supports refugees with their difficulties. I believe that through education we can help Syrians to rebuild their lives.”
“When the war started in Syria, the situation was really bad in Daraa, my hometown. In my fourth year of school, I remember two of my sisters were injured in a bombing and they had to stay bedridden for two months. It was really bad and it affected my emotional wellbeing.
I decided I was not going to let the war from stop me from getting an education, and so I enrolled in the University of Damascus to study computer science. That was in 2011. Five years later I graduated with honors with a specialization in artificial intelligence.
I got engaged a couple of months later, and my husband and I were planning on completing our studies in the US, since we had both received scholarships there. However, that was before the travel ban imposed on Syrian citizens traveling to America. My husband travelled to the US first but when it was my turn to join him a few months later, my visa was rejected.
After that I fell into a depression and I didn’t know what to do, because I had quit my job at a prestigious company when I first got engaged. I eventually gathered my strength and started applying for scholarships again. I received two acceptances, Jusoor one of them. I chose Jusoor for a scholarship at Wilfrid Laurier University in Canada.
I arrived in Canada in September 2018. I had to get used to living alone with roommates and to speaking English the whole time. After my first two terms at university, I also found it hard to maintain my social life as I had to stay alone for hours in the laboratory to undertake research.
So far, my experience at university and with Jusoor has been fruitful and educational. My future goal is to work in my industry for a few years in order to gain some experience before pursuing my PhD.”
“My message to other Syrian women is don’t be afraid to take leadership roles and to make a bigger impact.”
“My life was great before the war. I lived in Aleppo and I was surrounded by all my family and my childhood friends. At the end of grade 11, the war started and my education was suddenly interrupted. I remember the day we left Aleppo. It felt like someone was literally taking a part of me and I was losing my breath.
My family and I traveled first to Turkey, where we tried to start a new life but couldn’t, then to Lebanon, then to Damascus briefly and then to Egypt where we stayed for a year.
In 2013, we returned to Damascus. I finished school and went to Damascus University to study psychology. I found out about Jusoor during my second year of university and I decided to apply for a scholarship in Canada.
I was excited to receive a partial scholarship from Jusoor to continue my education however, I had to apply for more funding. This meant I had to apply for funding from ISOW (International Students Overcoming War), which is a student-funded humanitarian initiative at Wilfrid Laurier University. I was elated to receive the funding that guaranteed my bachelor’s degree in Canada and I am very happy that I was accepted into Wilfrid Laurier University.
I started my new life in Canada in mid 2017. I remember it was a very surreal experience. I’d always wanted to study in Canada ever since I was a child and my dream was finally happening. Thanks to ISOW and Jusoor, things moved fairly smoothly and made my transition much easier.
I was very excited to start my studies and I’m proud that I have a GPA of 3.5. I’m a very active student and work as a research assistant in two laboratories as well as volunteering at a literacy center for children and tutoring adults with developmental disabilities.
In the future, I hope my research can help to better understand the effects of trauma and conflict on Syrian children and take the knowledge I’ve gained back to Syria.”