Before attempting to tell Zainab’s story, I would like to mention that I have 3 daughters, one only a few months shy of her 3rd birthday. I feel that it’s important to share this simply because I thought of my own daughter as I was asking Zainab if she could remember anything about Syria, before she was forced to escape with her family at the tender age of three.
Her house in Syria was facing a school; she remembers hearing children laugh and play from the main balcony of her house. Twelve-year-old Zainab remembers her parents sitting together on the same balcony for hours on end and laughing the night away with her brothers. Thankfully, her memories didn’t take up room in the few suitcases the family took with them at the beginning of the conflict. Dad has disappeared, his memory is met with silence and sorrow. Zainab’s mother is Um Ibrahim, single parent to five boys and a girl. The family arrived in Za’atri Refugee Camp in 2012 thinking they’d escape the conflict for a week, but here they are seven years later.
Unfortunately, stories like these aren’t hard too find. Since the start of the conflict, the Syrian crisis has displaced more than 6.6 million people internally and seen more than 5.6 million Syrians scattering across its borders in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan.
Zainab reminds me so much of my daughters as she describes her morning routine. Her mother, Um Ibrahim, smirks as Zainab explains that it takes her 30 minutes to get up and look presentable for school, and only five minutes to get there. She’s quick to share what her father told her: “Go to school as you were going to a party, honour yourself, your friends and teachers."
“I love science, that’s my favourite subject in school. I want to be a doctor when I grow up. I like taking care of my younger brother when he’s not feeling well. I get him water and make sure he’s comfortable and resting,” she continues.
Zainab'sdetermination is obvious. You can see Um Ibrahim's radiant pride while listening to her daughter dream about her future.
“Education is so important. I regret that I didn’t finish school, and that’s why I always want to make sure that Zainab does.” sI remember when we got the news that one girl from Za’atri got one of the highest grades in Jordan. What a proud moment that was for all of us here in the camp. That is something that I want my daughter to see and work towards.”
Like her mother, Zainab has a definitive opinion about her academic success, “I think it’s important for girls to go to school so that when they grow up they can do whatever they want to do. That way they can read, they can become doctors, they can do all that!”
The humanitarian crisis in Syria has devastating consequences for women and girls. From food insecurity to loss of educational opportunities, lack of health services and access, and high rates of gender-based violence, women and girls are facing the strain of the crisis. World Vision is addressing the needs of refugee women and girls and empowering them to learn skills and earn decent incomes. We’re also helping them address gender-based violence, early marriage and child protection.
When I asked Zainab what her most profound dream for her future is, she immediately responded “I want to be in Syria. I just want to see my home and be with my aunts and uncles there, I miss them dearly.”
I have seen Zainab and her mother happy. They are still going through a hard time and are still struggling. Even though Um Ibrahim has been through a lot of sorrow, her daily sacrifice for her children and her only daughter offers protection and gives them strength for the future. Their smiles are her reward. She knows deep inside her that in a near future, a peaceful Syria will benefit from a young female Doctor named Zainab.