From the day we landed in Iraq more than 10 years ago, we knew. Even then, in the middle of the war, at the height of the insurgency—we could see Iraq’s future staring us in the face. Not in the bombs or the sectarian strife or the violence that, some days, feels like it will never end.
Most of us only ever get to see one picture of these war-torn places like Iraq and Syria. They only seem to make the news when the bombs fall and the bullets fly. So these beautiful, extraordinary, resourceful women and their families—the only time most of us ever get to see them is at their most vulnerable, their most desperate.
When they are fleeing for their lives.
When their world is freshly shattered by violence.
We don’t always get to see what was there before—or what can be there after.
But living here on the edges of conflict, I get to see it every day—and I want you to see it, too.
I see it in my friends Goze and Sozan, who are more than survivors of ISIS genocide. They are guiding their families back to wholeness, one handmade bar of soap at a time. They depend less and less on aid, and more and more on the strength of their own hands.
I see it in Syrian refugees like Sameeha. Before civil war engulfed her country, she was a designer, a business owner, and a teacher. She had a vision for her life—and no war can take that from her. Today, in the middle of a refugee camp in Iraq, Sameeha’s sewing business is flourishing.
I see it in the eyes of so many other women who you’re empowering, whose stories we get to share with you over the next few days.
All they need is for someone to listen—to find out what skills they have, to hear their vision for their families and their future—and empower them to make it happen.
Today, on International Women’s Day, be the ones to listen and respond—give women the opportunity to take control of their future, start a business, and write a new future for themselves and their families.
Preorder the Whitby MARYAMANA CLUTCH today. This cross-body clutch will fund educating girls in Iraq to prevent them from being trafficked as child brides.
You can also help by donating to Preemptive Love #TheStrengthOfHer Initiative
*This blog post originally appeared on www.preemptivelove.org and has been shared with permission of the Preemptive Love Coalition. For further stories about our partner's work in Iraq and Syria, please visit preemptive love.org.