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The good witch

A man and woman standing on a beach

Salma with her supportive father in the children’s playground she established

Salma with her supportive father in the children’s playground she established

Five years of war in Yemen have affected the lives of millions of people and created a dire economic situation, with over 24 million people in need of humanitarian assistance and 17 million food insecure.

Salma Nasser was living with her husband and son in a small village 30km away from Aden. Salma completed high school but did not go to university because she got married.

It is widely believed in Yemen that marriage and domestic work are the ultimate destiny of women. Salma’s family believed she should be spending her days taking care of her household. She had no income of her own, and was beaten by her husband who was not working most days.

Unbeknown to her husband and her family, and wanting to achieve something for herself, Salma secretly completed high school. A week before receiving the certificate, her family found out and stopped her receiving the certificate, but the kind school manager handed her the certificate at home. However, she still had no income and no life of her own.

“I was in a violent relationship with my husband,” she says. “My little sons watched everything he did to me.” One day her husband kidnapped her son and fled to a remote area of Taiz governorate. “My suffering got worse and I began to think about working until I was a strong person,” says Salma.

Salma started working with humanitarian organisations as a volunteer in gender-based violence activities, which made some religious extremists in her area attack her. They said she was trying to change the Yemeni culture and help foreign influence over the country.

A woman and kids standing at a beach
Salma with two of her children in her playground

“For four weeks during Friday prayers my name was broadcast through the loudspeakers of the village mosques,” she says, breaking down. “They said that I was an evil witch who seduces women and children.” But these terrible events did not affect Salma’s strength.

“I started working on my own project, establishing the first charity in the village to help residents, especially women and children. My village suffers from several problems, including the rape of children, an increase in domestic violence and the prevention of women from having an education, as well as early marriage. This led me to start my charity.”

Salma’s charity had funding problems, so she thought instead of doing her own project and setting up a children’s park, but the budget was not enough to implement the project.

“Then, through volunteering with the Yemen Women Union, I heard about a programme supported by CARE International, funded by UNFPA. It is a women’s economic empowerment project which enables women to set up their own small businesses. I went home and talked to my parents and my mother and I decided to apply.”

“I went to register with my father the next day and luckily we were accepted. We had to do a training, which was good although there were some things that were difficult for me to understand. But I always knew I was not alone – I have the support of my mother and father. CARE also told us they will keep giving us trainings and will be there to support and help us along the way.”

After obtaining the funding, she bought children’s toys and purchased the garden floor, and this garden became the village children’s paradise, protecting them from danger.

“The villagers used to call her the evil witch, but now she’s a good witch who helps children and women in the village,” said the village head.

Many residents of the village benefitted from Salma’s projects through awareness-raising activities, training, economic empowerment and a children’s garden. 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 their transportation costs.

Salma the witch used her magic and changed the village into paradise. She is now completing her university studies.

“Thank you CARE for supporting me and helping me to achieve my dreams,” says Salma, the good witch.

Two small girls smiling
Two of Salma’s small children
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