Throughout her childhood, Fatima struggled to cope with her hearing impairment. She felt alienated from her peers, and her parents had difficulty handling her special needs. Discriminatory beliefs about disabled people were common.
But with hard work, the family learned sign language, and, when Fatima was 12, her parents discovered she had a gift for art. “I started doing all my siblings’ homework for their art classes,” Fatima told us. She learned to lip read, and with help from her elder sister Heyam, she began teaching her siblings and neighbours to draw. Her family encouraged her to develop her abilities, and she soon became skilled at embroidery and other crafts.
She was able to sell her work, and eventually became well known in the community for her talents. But when her family was forced to flee Syria, Fatima’s life was again thrown into upheaval. Fatima’s mother and her sister, Amal, tried to ensure she did not miss out on any important services or assistance in Jordan. Still, Fatima encountered the same negative attitudes and isolation she had experienced during her childhood in Syria.
“At first, I was really frustrated by people’s reactions and their way of treating me [because] I’m with special needs,” Fatima said. But she persevered. After arriving in Al Za’atari Camp, Fatima began to attend information sessions at a women’s centre operated by the Institute of Family Health supported by UNFPA. The centre is a safe place for refugee women and girls to receive counselling, health and human rights information, and other assistance.
She participated in some of the facility’s recreation classes, making handicrafts and picking up new skills. The staff quickly recognized her talent.
They asked Fatima to join the centre as a volunteer. Since March 2013, Fatima has taught sewing, illustration and painting classes, with assistance from a colleague who knows sign language. She receives a small stipend for her service. “The UNFPA-supported women’s centre discovered and believed in my talents and encouraged me to improve those skills,” Fatima said.
She has since settled into life at the camp. Last year, she got married. Her husband respects her a lot, she says, and she gets along well with his five children. Her schedule is now full with family activities, volunteering at the women’s centre, and developing new artwork and crafts.
“I got a new, great opportunity to be happy again,” Fatima told us, sitting at a table covered in her sketches and embroidery. “Now, I feel safe and happy,” she added.
Project name: A practical emergency prevention and response to GBV and RH among Syrian refugees in Jordan
JRP Specific Objective: REF 1: Equitable access, uptake and quality of primary healthcare for Syrian women, girls, boys and men, as well as vulnerable Jordanian populations in highly impacted areas
JRP Project Title: REF 1.1: Primary health care for refuge WGBM in camps and out of camp, and vulnerable Jordanians
Total Financing: USD 2 million
Financing Agency: United States and EU, through UNFPA
Implementing Partner: Institute for Family Health / Noor Al Hussein Foundation