“When people unite, they can overcome all the rest”

Courage and resilience of a refugee, Lava’s story.

We at Action Against Hunger Canada/Action Contre la Faim (ACF) Canada recognise the vital role women around the world play in ending malnutrition and are committed to improving the lives of women suffering from malnutrition. As a dedicated partner of the Canadian Network for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (MNCH), ACF strives to save the lives of women and their children through improving maternal, newborn and child health around the world. While pregnant and lactating women are especially vulnerable to acute malnutrition, women are vital to our fight against malnutrition.

Today we celebrate the accomplishments and contributions women have made around the world through sharing stories of women like Lava, who fight for equality and empowerment.

Here is Lava’s story:

Lava is from Syrian Kurdistan. For 15 years, she lived in Aleppo, Syria, where she led an active life: she got married, studied economics, and taught music lessons. She also belonged to a local women’s organization because she wanted to help others—particularly young girls—in her community. But in 2013, conflict damaged her home and forced her to leave Syria.

“I really suffered from this experience. My husband came to Iraqi Kurdistan a few weeks before me and it was very hard for him; it wasn’t easy to be accepted. At first we didn’t know the language and we couldn’t find jobs. We lived in the Domiz camp. This experience was deeply shocking—the living conditions, the psychological state of the people—it was terrible. Now it’s easier. I learned the language here, and although it took me several months, I found a job, first as an English teacher and now with Action Against Hunger in Erbil.” – Lava, Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene team member, Action Against Hunger – Iraqi Kurdistan 

Her first professional experience before joining our team was essential for Lava because, as she explains, it allowed her to feel accepted. “When I was teaching children, I felt good,” she says. “With children, there are no issues of language or origin. I taught them English and they taught me Kurdish.”

“When people unite, they can overcome all the rest”

In April 2014, Lava joined our Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WaSH) team in Erbil. After her own experiences in a refugee camp, she became dedicated to promoting hygiene in Syrian refugee camps. Her work was not always easy, but she remained motivated.

“I myself am a refugee, and I promised myself I would do my best to assist those in need. Since I started this job, I’ve heard so many horrific stories from women and children. I cannot look at this situation and do nothing.” – Lava, Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene team member, Action Against Hunger – Iraqi Kurdistan 

In June 2014, a new crisis forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee to Iraqi Kurdistan. Lava now helps internally displaced people in the country that welcomed her. “I do not care where the people are from,” she tells us. “I saw this child who was badly burned—that could have been my daughter. How could I not help someone just because they have a different background or religion than me?”

The country’s recent succession of crises has been extremely difficult, but Lava says that she has seen many people be generous in the face of emergencies. “In a normal situation, people might not necessarily help, but an emergency is a very special context,” she explains. “When people unite, they can overcome all the rest.”

We are closer to ending global acute malnutrition than we ever have been before and empowering women around the world will help us get there. Help us not only honour these women, but empower them this International Women’s Day by:

(1)   Spreading the word

(2)   Helping us build a fruit tree and vegetable garden


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