From where I Stand: “It is your right as a woman, as a refugee and as a human, to become empowered.”

After fleeing the war in Syria in 2015 to find safety in Jordan, Hadeel Dohs* had to face domestic violence within the four walls of her own home. Managing to escape into the night, she finally found peace and hope in Azraq refugee camp, where she is rebuilding her life through her new role as a childcare teacher and accessing protection services offered in the UN Women Oasis center.


Hadeel Dohs, 30, is rebuilding her life and becoming empowered through her new role as a childcare teacher in the UN Women Oasis Center in Azraq refugee camp, Jordan. Photo: UN Women/ Lauren Rooney

QuoteFive years ago, I fled Syria with my husband and three children, to a small village in Jordan. Yet, despite escaping the war, another conflict raged on inside the four walls of our new home. A battle of abuse at the hands of my husband.

After a year of suffering, I no longer wanting to feel the pain or allow my children to live in an abusive environment, so I decided to run away. Deep into the night, I gathered my children and nothing more, setting out to find refuge in the Azraq refugee camp. With all of the pain I endured came the empowerment that I will never forget.

We were settled into our new caravan, and it was the first time in a very long time that I felt peace. Of course, in the beginning, I faced a lot of internal strife, from experiencing loneliness to overcoming the feeling that what I had done would be frowned upon by many. However, the ultimate fear I had was the question of supporting my family on my own.

I applied for a position in the [UN Women] Oasis center, and with great relief, I was accepted and started the training as childcare teacher. Coming from a place where my husband had not allowed me to work before, I was nervous and yet incredibly excited about the prospect of having a job.

The role offered me the opportunity to not only teach other children but also my own, as they too attended the center. Soon I felt confident in my ability to look after children and thoroughly enjoyed the regular training that I took to strengthen my skills. There is nothing more beautiful to see them flourish into polite, respectful students and encourage them to seek a prosperous future.

I have come to learn the power and beauty of teaching. It makes me feel like I have become a valid part of society and a way in which I can help other women that face my same hardships. I often envisage my future through my children, and I have recognized education as an essential part of their life. I am lucky enough to be able to guide them through their learning at this age, and I hope to continue teaching them throughout the rest of their lives.

Meanwhile, I also attend regular protection and gender-based violence awareness sessions. It changed the way I used to think about the decision I made to leave my husband, and finally, I felt an overwhelming sense of relief and comfort in my actions. 

I am no longer embarrassed to share my hardships, quite the opposite. I feel it is important to share my story to let other women know that it is your right as a woman, as a refugee and as a human, to become empowered and make your own decisions in life. 

It is possible to create a new life and dream for a prosperous future.”

SDG 5: Gender equality
SDG 16: Peace, justice and strong institutions

Hadeel Dohs*, 30, is a Syrian refugee from Damascus, living in the Azraq refugee camp, in Jordan, where she benefitted from the protection services and livelihood opportunities offered at the UN Women’s Oasis center to rebuild her life as a survivor of gender-based violence. Now, she is sharing her journey of empowerment to inspire other women to take charge of their own lives. With the generous support of the Governments of Canada, Finland, France, Iceland, Italy, Zonta International Foundation and UN Women national committees, UN Women is providing referral, protection and awareness raising services to 2,000 women Syrian refugee women every year. Doh’s story relates to Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16, which promotes peace and security, as well as SDG 5 on gender equality and women’s empowerment.

*Note: The name has been changed to protect the identity of the survivor.