Married at age 18, Sarah who is now 26 and the mother of a 6-year old son, had to leave her Syrian hometown, Marj Al Zawiehin in 2012. She had just married Ahmad when due to the Syrian Civil War, they were forced to leave with their families in order to find a safer place to live.
They moved to many different places such as Al Rayhanieh and Om Al Tyor before finally settling down in a simple rented apartment in Lattakia,
Sarah married at the age of 18, which is why she never comleted her education. Now with hindsight she regrets this, and not having a university degree made it difficult for her to get a job.
Before the war, her husband was wealthy and ran his own factorys and bakery with his family. Later, after losing their properties, they had to start again to make a living. This meant starting from scratch. “We had to start again, which was painful and difficult. My husband had to look for a job and I have to speak out against early marriage. To be married is a serious responsibility and it represents a whole new world that a woman is not supposed to experience before finishing her studies and being financially independent. Do not wait for a crisis, prepare yourself by gaining a degree," says Sarah.
At the start of the war, her husband worked in shops, sold vegetables, fixed generators and did many other things in order to provide for their basic sustenance. Sarah helped him by teaching children primary school subjects, which for her was also a way of continuing to study. The difficult circumstances did not deter her from wanting to learn. Teaching children is a preparation for her next step, which is to study again.
In 2015, her husband had to serve in the army in another city, so she was left alone with all the family responsibilities. She took care of the house and her child and provided for their needs. The first year was very difficult for her. "I was lonely and my son got sick and after taking on this responsibility I had to think about how to use my time well, how to study and how to make money. I was approached by people in my neighbourhood, as a young woman alone. I did not make bad choices though, we must remain fully aware and conscious in difficult situations," she says.
She started thinking about solutions to her circumstances and decided to invest her time in learning. She started sewing. She found a free sewing course in the Centre for Supporting and Empowering Syrian Women in Lattakia. Following this, she tokk another free sewing course run by the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and the Department of Ecumenical Relations and Development (GOPA DERD). She was also given two sewing machines to start up her own business. She attended support sessions on both courses in which women shared their stories and experienced strong emotional encouragement to succeed in their lives.
Sarah’s determination did not stop there. Her friend, Marah, who is an English teacher, encouraged her to study English. Sarah signed on at a language centre, started classes and is now making rapid progress and achieving high marks. Marah comments, "I see in Sarah the brave woman who insists on learning and improving herself. Instead of drowning in her problems, she chooses to rise and to fight the difficulties, to educate herself and to create her own future. She is clearly well aware that she can do anything."
Sarah’s story is one of many. It is an inspirational story of a woman in a crisis, facing war. She is a woman who got married at a very young age, a woman who had to start all over again. She faced the challenges of early motherhood and the absence of her husband. Sarah chose to be strong and to stay true to her marriage.
Sarah is soon to go back to her studies and to start her own business in sewing. This year, her husband finished his military service and returned to find is wife, who is 15 years his junior, ready to face any challenge on her own. Millions of Syrian women, are proving that consistency, faith and patience are the real winners of the Syrian War.