From where I stand: “I am making a change in my life and influencing the lives of others by challenging the stereotypes against women”
Ayat Shhadeh, a 29-year-old mother of two, became a facilitator for the Renewing Hope project in order to support other women who have shared her own experience of undergoing early marriage. Through the project implemented by the Family and Childhood Protection Society (FCPS), supported by the Women’s Peace and Humanitarian Fund (WPHF), she not only provides for her daughters, but also coordinates activities that offer young women and girls the chance to continue their education, while accessing livelihood opportunities and reproductive health services in their communities.
“I was married at a young age and lived most of my life as a wife and a mother. Ever since I got divorced, I had to find a way to provide for my two girls. I came across the “Renewing hope” project implemented by the Family and Childhood Protection Society. At first, I wanted to join the project’s workshop to seek help and find opportunities to improve my situation.
Even before attending the workshops, the project coordinators spotted my skills and offered me a position as a facilitator to support other women who shared similar experiences. I have to admit that I was afraid. However, having been a child bride myself, I wanted to challenge myself in taking this position and help other women [and girls].
FCPS gave me special training that equipped me with the necessary skills and knowledge to coordinate the project’s activities. After meeting the trainees in the workshops, I was glad I took this opportunity. I felt I was in a suitable position to guide them in overcoming their challenges, as I myself was married at a young age and experienced similar concerns throughout my life. By sharing my story, I wanted to let them know that it is possible to grow past their hardships. I carried out three months of training, including 24 workshops for 25 women, half of whom were married at the age of 18 or younger.
Many people denied my capabilities, for being a divorced, single mother who got married at the age of 16, but … I am capable of providing basic needs, education and psychological support to my children. Providing vulnerable women and girls with necessary training, education and employment opportunities is central to boosting their self-reliance and reducing dependence on traditional forms of aid. This is why I devote my time and passion to help women to empower themselves educationally and socially.
Getting married at a young age deprives women of their education. Since it is difficult for women to go back to school once they get married, I encourage the beneficiaries through interactive sessions so that they are able to use their skills more easily, to improve their lives and that of their family. Throughout the workshops, I notice that their abilities and eagerness to continue learning grows day by day.
What keeps me going is the positive responses I get from the trainees. I know that I am making a change in my life and influencing the lives of others by challenging the stereotypes against women. I am proud to be part of this change and wish to further develop my skills and abilities to bring about bigger advances in our society.”
Available in Arabic here.
As an FCPS project facilitator, 29-year-old Shhadeh seeks to reach other women who were child brides to boost their self-confidence and impart the skills they need to improve their livelihoods. Her work contributes to Sustainable Development Goal 5, on gender equality and empowering women and girls.