A cheerful, happy enthusiastic 32 years’ Palestinian woman Suzan, walks around the camp surveying cases in an attempt to serve her community in Beddawi camp, north Lebanon. Based on UNRWA Lebanon, Beddawi camp was established in 1955 and is located on a hill some 5 kilometers north-east of Tripoli. Throughout its first five decades, the camp attracted large numbers of Palestine refugees displaced from camps such as Nabatieh and Tal el-Zaatar, which were destroyed in 1974 and 1976 respectively. More refugees came from Nahr-el Bared after its destruction in 2007. The camp was damaged during the Lebanese civil war and witnessed several waves of displacement to the surrounding areas. The camp’s population has grown, most recently as a result of the Syria crisis, placing significant strain on infrastructure and UNRWA services.
But behind the activeness and cheerful face, Suzan is hiding lots of pain and suffer. “My family registered me to join the project, and I can’t be more grateful to this opportunity”, she says. Suzan is a participant in INITIATE-Women’s Program Association (WPA) employment programme in Beddawi camp. She is one among 120 women working in community kitchens to produce and distribute hot meals to food insecure households in Ein el Hilwe, Beddawi and Rashidieh Palestinian refugee camps. The project “Empowering Women And Addressing Food Insecurity Through Women-Led Community Kitchens” is implemented by Initiate and Women’s Program Association (WPA), supported by UN Women with the generous support of the Government of Japan.
“I was married at the age of 16 years and today I am a mother of four (two boys and two girls), and being a mother was the only good thing that happened to me since that age”, says Suzan adding,” since the day I got married and gave birth to my first child and my health declined, I lost my teeth and my self-confidence along with it, I have been always sick, depressed and hiding in my home. I had lost hope in everything, I am suffering from cancer in the uterine tissues and currently being treated through hormone pills which now every 14 pills cost 5 million. We are drowning in debt, and my husband spends everything on my treatment.”
She joined the project because of her family,” I am glad they enrolled me, the day I joined I was afraid of facing the community, but I received lots of support and care from the project’s team, which made me feel stronger, the cancer is still inside me, I am not cured, but I feel healthier, happier, active, full of confidence and hope again”, she says.
“I learned how to communicate with people, I learned the importance of work, and being able to support my family financially, I learned the importance of education, I will never let my daughters marry at a young age, I will encourage them to study, and find a job and be independent and later be able to support their families as well”, Suzan says. “with the money I will earn from the project, 1st I want to buy new clothes for my children, then with the remaining support my husband with our debts”.
“This project made my life better, and I finally started looking at the Brightside”, says Suzan.