Building resilience in the face of conflict
Zainab remembers arriving in Lebanon and feeling like a beggar as she struggled to make ends meet. Her days were haunted by longing for her home in Syria. But her life there was destroyed by conflict and the heartbreaking loss of one of her four sons, gunned down by a sniper.
Advised by a neighbour, Zainab found a UN Women-supported centre in Beirut’s Tarik El Jdideh area. Syrian refugees and vulnerable Lebanese women are welcomed there. One of five across Lebanon, the centre provides skills training to help women establish livelihoods. Zainab opted to learn hair styling and make-up. Today, she greets clients at home and in a part-time position at a local salon. “My morale has improved,” she says. “You don’t forget the sorrow you feel, but you try to lighten its effects. Life is still in front of us.”
In the last five years, Lebanon has absorbed 1.5 million people fleeing from the Syrian crisis. The impact has been devastating for refugees, but it has also put pressure on host communities in Lebanon, some of which struggle with dire poverty. The community centres offer relief—a place for refugees and host community women to gather and get to know each other, building trust and understanding.
Over 2,000 women have used opportunities for skills training, which emphasizes marketable vocations and opportunities in small agro-businesses. Partnerships with private firms have enabled hundreds of women to find jobs, while others have pursued small enterprises. The centres also teach women about their rights and how to protect themselves from gender-based violence. For the Syrian women, home is still far away, and the longing never completely goes away. But with support and new skills, they are becoming more resilient to the shocks they have endured.