Every year on August 19 marks the World Humanitarian Day where we honor the unique contributions and unwavering commitment of women humanitarians.
This year, we would like to leave this space for our dedicated female humanitarian workers to talk about their experience in the humanitarian field.
Despite all the atrocities I have witnessed in this field of work, I am still here, more confident than ever before in this mission. I became a humanitarian aid worker by coincidence, with a degree in Marketing and no prior experience whatsoever, I applied for an internship with URDA to make sense of the purpose of my life and help others. What was an internship became a life-time job and a passion that I constantly try to incorporate into everything that matters to me in life.
There are moments when my body wants to rest but my heart always stand in the way and gives me that extra boost I need to keep moving forward, because somewhere out there, there is a child who needs a helping hand and a woman who is waiting for this slight glimpse of hope which might be me.
It all started in 2011, where I had to encounter refugee children and women, who came barefooted, agonized, stripped off their dignity and all life possessions. One of the hardest focus groups in my life was having to sooth a wife who lost her husband witnessing him get burned in front of her eyes. Back then, not only had I felt powerless, but rather knew the true meaning of humanitarian response. It is a critical role in such critical situations. One of us has to act even if not ready.
URDA was my first official step into systemic humanitarian action. I started as a volunteer in psychosocial activities and soon received my degrees to become a leader in the education program using all my professional and soft skills to lead every needy child to the education he deserves. After deep understanding of the needs of refugees I came to the realization that it all rotates around the axis of education. They need to be empowered to stand up in front of the wind of tyranny and injustice.
My name in Arabic stands for tenderness in English, and I believe it is the secret that stands behind my strong dedication to offer empathy, knowledge, and tenderness to the ones in need.
Ever since I was still a kid, I have always looked around and seen nothing but injustices; an elderly woman begging or a young child who’s exactly my age but selling gum on the street, and wondered why I got the chance to live my life to the fullest when millions around the world can’t even afford a slice of bread.
I wanted to change the world, a world where pain and poverty have become so normalized, but with time I started to realize that change starts within. I saw humanitarian work as a gateway in which I can give back to the world, to ease pain, to draw smiles, to create opportunities and pave the way for those who need a guide in their life journey.
As a woman, I found my own way to make it through the humanitarian field; it was never easy or smooth, but indeed so self-fulfilling.
I was born in Spain where I have been always interested in the situation of the immigrants and refugees due the high number of people arriving at the Spanish coast in horrible conditions risking their lives.
During the toughest years of the Spanish recession, I decided to move forward within the humanitarian filed not only to volunteer but to become professional in this field. With a Master´s degree in humanitarian affairs and international development, I decided to move abroad to put my conviction and passion to use. Ever since, I’ve been dedicating my career and my life to advocate for the rights of all people in a vulnerable situation, especially those people who have lost everything, children and women.
I believe that it is not only a job but a way of life, to protect the rights of the people and generate opportunities for everyone to build a better place to live, where humans are more empathetic and more responsible.
“What is it like to be a humanitarian photographer/videographer?” someone asked.
I replied, it’s like clarifying your eyes, mind and soul. I’m tired of fake conversations and filming about trendy topics. I want something inspiring, beautiful, challenging, rare. I want to tell heroic stories. Humans that give me an insight about things in life we merely appreciate and take for granted.
It is a blessing and an honor to capture such moments. Am talking specifically about painful moments. Such like Seeing a child in the middle of the storm walking barefoot asking for warmth and food. This child taught me that “Kids like her wake up every day to teach the rest of the world .
Throughout my experience in the humanitarian field, I came across many hard situations that changed me. My work forced me to get in contact with widowed mothers to help sponsor their orphan children, feel their grief, their pain and sorrow.
I remember I once asked a young blind orphan: “What do you wish to be in the future”? The girl who was in her second year in university studying psychology replied: “I want to pass over my courage to the blind people like me, to ease their pain and let them know how to see life in colors”.
That absolutely shocked me, but inspired me so much that I became more confident than ever that I have finally found my home among many other humanitarians like me.
I was out of all this, a regular fresh graduate with plans to become a successful journalist writing political articles . But instead, I was destined to witness and report facts and statistics of refugees misery.
On a daily basis I have to deal with numbers. Whether widowed mothers or orphans, families with no shelter, sick elderly people, refugees with health problems and children who need school sponsorship. With time, my emotions are turned into word , where am obliged to write the story about a mother whose new born baby died because she couldn’t afford to get her milk”. Am a mother of a 3 year old child and the last thing I would want to see is him suffering in this world.
I sit behind the screen in a warm room with 4 walls archiving footage and writing about them, with a soul that shivers feeling each and every pain they go through. I have learned a lot from these heroes I write about. Feeling dignified is a right. And all refugees deserve to be honored with this right.
” What is the secret of being a woman? Is it distinction or excellence? Is it commitment or diligence? Is it patience or improvement? Is it multitasking or perfection?
The secret lying behind being a woman is neither this nor that, but in contrary it is the combination between them all in addition to having the power of combing feelings and thoughts in each and every action she aims to accomplish.
Thus, Ladies, stay strong, believe in yourselves, in your dreams, in your inner power, and hard work. We are making progress every day towards a brighter future, each one in her career, home, university or school. Put your hands together with men’s, and remember, it all starts with your magnificent secret!
Dear world, watch us… we can do it, and we will!”
Since I was a school student I used to be a volunteer in environmental fields to help reduce waste and damage to the environment.
Then as I graduated from college and with beginning of the Syrian crisis, I worked as a volunteer in relief sector to help provide the needy families with basic needs such as food, shelter, and health care, with the goal of saving human lives, comforting human suffering and maintaining human dignity. Then humanitarian aid became my job.
Being a humanitarian means helping people who are suffering and saving lives any time any place in the world. That requires being responsible, conscious of the circumstances of other people’s lives, and helping them based on need, without discrimination. I’m glad to have a job that reflects my values and what I believe in.
I’m lucky to make a living working for peace and conflict resolution this requires integrity, independence and neutrality.