Starting Afresh


Mrs. Tharaa (who hates to be called by that name) is 38 and comes from the city of Qamishli, Governorate of Hasakeh.
The story began when Tharaa was introduced to al-Salam Community Center by one of the beneficiaries in the Women’s Committees, who felt that it was necessary to help that woman ease the tension and relieve the terrible pressures she was experiencing.
She grew in a middle-class family. The greatest concern of her parents was to educate their children and secure their basic needs. She learned from her father determination, strength of character and challenging life odds.
She pursued her education despite the family’s difficult financial conditions and graduated from the Banking Institute with distinction in Accounting and an average score of 86.
For five years afterwards, she worked as an accountant in a children’s garment factory. She described that period as one of prosperity and emergence to the world as a vigorous, self-made and active woman, able to work in a male society and communicate with fellow workers in a large factory, winning the admiration and appreciation of everyone who knew her.
“I met my husband, who was also an accountant in the factory, and married at 25,” she said. “After our marriage, at my husband’s insistence, I had to choose between home and work. For him, it was either one or the other and this caused a great disagreement between us. It was either the work that I loved and wished for all my life, through which I emerged from my rabbit hole as a powerful working woman, or my family, which I also cherished and to which I was fully dedicated,” she added with evident sadness.
“In the end, I had to give in to my husband’s command and his urging me to quit work. My boring, cold life had started. I used to be a person full of energy, bubbling over with vitality, and now it was all over. I gradually became sluggish, like the unmoving waters on a seabed,” she confided almost crying.
One day, after an awareness session about intimate partner violence, Tharaa asked to talk to me in private. As soon as we entered the room, she began to cry. I tried to calm her down and ease her tension. She opened up and began to talk about her husband’s wrong practices, ignoring her desire to resume work, depreciating anything she did, destroying her spirits whenever she attempted to get up again or learn something new. “Whatever it is that I do, he always tells me I’m a failure, always criticizes me, which is frankly so demoralizing!”
Thus, right from the first session, Tharaa was able to diagnose her main problem, namely, the bad way her husband treated her, his ruthless ways of underestimating her abilities so she would never dream of going back to work again.
I started holding individual sessions with her. We jointly agreed upon the intervention plan which included her involvement in the CC’s programs, attending awareness sessions and referring her to the Vocational Training Program.
Tharaa also participated in the preparations for the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence campaign by doing paintings in which she expressed women’s dilemma. In fact, she liked painting a lot and was good at it, but as she put it, “Ever since I got married I have never held a pencil to draw anything, not even a rose!”
Tharaa wanted to develop her skills and learn everything new in order to prove to her husband that she was able to succeed.
When the Vocational Training Program started, she was referred to a sewing and embroidery training course. Quite naturally, she actively participated and distinguished herself.
Gradually, Tharaa changed and was able to rebuild her character, prove her abilities and talent to her milieu in general and to her husband in particular.
The opportunity came up when her family ran into financial hardship. She suggested to her husband to start a business, a small ready-to-wear store. First, he was unwilling to accept her proposal, since she was “a woman, unable to make a fateful decision concerning the family.” “How would you work in a store in the midst of a male society that would never accept it?” was his main argument.
After a long effort and much insistence, with us supporting her in improving communication with her husband, the man was won round to the idea and together they started their small business.
She began to run the shop and was thus back to work again. Her determination, success and masterful running of the business have had a positive impact on changing her husband’s attitude. Gradually he began to encourage her and thank her for standing by him and helping him out in this crisis. He was amazed to see how well she managed the store and coordinated the work on her own. He even began to help with some housework.
She expressed her great delight with the result she had reached. She also wished to conclude this stage of change in her life by changing her name too and filed a suit to that effect. Her name now is Hasnaa .
Thus, the intervention plan agreed upon with Hasnaa was successful, thanks to her stout determination to have a fresh start and prove her worth.