To be a woman in Syria today, means to be a woman of steel.

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She joined the Syrian Civil Defence in Daraa in March 2015. Manal risks her life every day to save people from under the bombs. She writes to you about  the courage and heroism that  define women in Syria today.

“Women’s lives have changed a lot due to the war. On the one hand, women have had opportunities in new fields of work that they didn’t have before.  Female media activists became reporters in the early stages of the revolution and  risked their lives to deliver stories of the bombing, destruction and siege that happens every day in Syria. Women joined the civil defense as paramedics and life savers.

In the beginning of my work as a Syria Civil Defence volunteer, local society struggled to accept the idea of a woman working as a life saver or paramedic, but with time we got their respect and  blessing because they saw us putting our lives at risks to help women and children when the bombs hit.

When I started as a volunteer with the SCD, I took courses in emergency medical response, but I also received training with 12 female members of the SCD,  in obstetrics. Childbirth is one of riskiest situations for women because most of the health centers and hospitals in Syria have been destroyed. There are very few centers for women and children left and most medical staff have fled the country due to the bombing or fear of being captured by the security services. Many women have lost their lives and their baby’s life as a result.

The majority of women living here have to travel to other areas to give birth. They face huge risks travelling long distances, crossing many checkpoints in search of gynecologists, midwives and hospitals.

I have faced huge risks because of my strong will and desire to help others, but my faith in humanitarian work gives me the courage to face these risks. On a daily basis I could be injured or killed because I work and live in areas that are constantly bombed.

There are thousands of people that are living under daily bombardment, including many women and children that need our help. As long as people need help, we have to go beyond our fears and the risks, and be there for them.

Syrian women have suffered a lot due to the war, especially those who lost their husbands or the family breadwinner. Women have had to take full responsibility for their families while their homes have been destroyed. They live day to day with the fear of their children being killed by a bomb, forced displacement from one place to another, their husbands being detained,  and the loss of safety and stability that comes from living in a camp.

We not only have to take care of ourselves, but our families and those around us. A woman takes on many roles, she has to be a father, mother, sister and friend.

To be a woman in Syria today, means to be thankful if you didn’t lose any of your family, relatives or your home.

To be a woman in Syria today, means to be a mother, a teacher and a nurse in the absence of schools and medical care, thinking every morning about how you can protect your children, provide them with  food, education, safety and medicine if they got sick or injured.

To be a woman in Syria today, means that you have to learn how to explain to your kids what’s going on around them – why they have lost their father, why they can’t go to school like other children of the world, why they can’t play or going to parks. And in the worst case, you have  to be able to explain to your own child why he or she has lost a part of his/ her body, and show them that they are just like any other child even if they don’t have a hand, leg or an eye.

To be a woman in Syria today, means to be a woman of steel. A Syrian woman doesn’t break no matter the circumstances.

I hope the war in Syria will end soon and peace will prevail. Our work will not end when the war ends. The real work will come after the war.  We will rebuild our country and spread the culture of peace and love.

I would like to tell the women of  world that we are able to do anything. There is nothing that can stand between our will and courage

Syrian women are lifesavers, paramedics, media activists, teachers, and mothers who have lost their homes, husbands and children. Despite it all, Syrian women never lost their courage or resistance.”