It is never too late

Samah is from Bani Mater district in Sana’a, Yemen. She has experienced things that most of us could never imagine. At 14 Samah was married to a 35-year-old man who physically abused her.

“I was in a violent relationship for 18 years,” she says. “My two little sons watched everything he did to me.” After years of abuse, Sabah realised that the day may come when her husband would kill her, so she took her two sons with her and fled to her step-mother’s house. Here, she was severely beaten by her brother, to the point that she needed to be taken to hospital.

As well as this unthinkable violence, the conflict in Yemen presented a huge challenge to Samah and her family. “This bloody war turned our lives into hell,” says Samah in tears. “It was the worst time ever – we spent a desperate winter fearful of what was coming. My sons and I came close to death.”

As the war continued, Samah fled again, this time to her uncle’s house, to escape the attacks all around her. She and her children left everything behind – they had only the clothes they were wearing.

As a single mother with two sons and no income, Samah considered suicide several times. But just as she was on the edge of desperation, she was referred to CARE.

“CARE was a glimmer of hope for me,” she says. “The psychosocial counsellor I was referred to saw how bad my situation was and told me not to worry – that they would help me.”

Samah registered in a seven-day training called Springboard, which is a women’s development programme. “I saw light beyond this training,” she says.

In a male-dominated society like Yemen, Samah struggled to convince her family to let her enrol in CARE’s training programme as she would have to leave home to study. Eventually, they relented, and she joined a training programme funded by the UN’s Population Fund (UNFPA) which provided her with skills in finance and entrepreneurship as well as life skills.

Samah says: “These trainings brought a ray of hope into my life and allowed me to discover myself after years and years of isolation and despair, including suicidal thoughts. Now I feel able to speak up and face all life’s difficulties and obstacles with confidence.”

With CARE’s support, Samah started her own small business – a chicken shop called ‘Chicken Pieces’ in Bani Mater, where no such shops existed. Before the war, people were able to buy whole chickens for their families, but due to the economic crisis – the depreciation of the Yemeni Riyals (YER) and the lack of salaries – many people were unable to buy a whole chicken for 1000 or 1500 YER. Samah had the idea to open a shop selling pieces of chicken so that people who have only four or five hundred YER were able to buy and eat like other people.

Samah developed her business plan and received her license to sell. She received a loan to open her first shop: “I was overwhelmed with joy and happiness when I stepped into my shop for the first time.” It is in an area far from the market so she had a lot of customers who were able to buy from her.

Now she makes a good income and is able to support her family. Her sons are able to go to school as she can pay for the transportation costs. She hopes to continue improving her business so that her sons can go to the best school in Sana’a. She wants to establish a bigger shop with more freezers and plans to train young people to distribute her chicken to small shops. She also dreams of finishing her studies – she dropped out of school before she was married as a child, but says: “It is never too late.”

“I thank CARE for supporting me and letting me stand again.”

 

 

 

 Main picture: Samah at her chicken shop called ‘Chicken Pieces’ in Bani Mater

 

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