On International Women’s day, we celebrate this Syrian mother’s strength


Masoud Hasen and Yasmine Saker
a displacement camp
10 March 2020

Al- Hassakeh, Syria, 8 March 2020- With a smile that never leaves her tired face, she starts every day, determined to make a better future for her children. Meet young mother, Sawsan*, who lives with her two boys Osama, 7, and Younes, 5, in rudimentary conditions in Al-Hol camp for internally displaced families in northeastern Syria.

Back in 2015, after her husband went missing, Sawsan and her children fled their hometown of Jarablus in rural Aleppo as fighting escalated, leaving their lives and belongings behind. They spent years on the move until they finally ended up in Al-Hol camp last year, where they had relatives.

a girl in a tented classroom

“I don’t have any savings, so I work hard to support my boys and provide their needs,” says 20-year-old Sawsan who spends her days going from one tent to another at the camp, selling homemade sweets and Falafil – a popular nutritious and cheap food in Syria.

“It hurts me knowing that my children are too young to understand that I can’t provide for them what other parents can,” she continues.

Having dropped out of school at age 12 after completing Grade 9 due to social restrictions, Sawsan had given up on her dream to ever continue her learning. But when she arrived at Al-Hol and went to enroll Osama at the UNICEF-supported self-learning centre, she decided to give herself another chance and enrolled herself. The self-learning programme allows children who missed out on education and who have no physical access to a school due to conflict and displacement, to study at home or in community centres with the help of volunteers.

a boy in a tented classroom

“When I went to enroll Osama, I saw girls my age attending classes and the teachers encouraged me to give it shot,” explains Sawsan who underwent a placement exam and was enrolled in Grade 3 while Osama started Grade 1.

“It’s funny that my son and I both attend the same school, but I can now at least help him do his homework,” she adds with a playful laugh.

UNICEF supports 7 self-learning centres in Al-Hol camp, allowing over 4,500 children and adolescents to continue their learning.

*Names have been changed to protect the identity