Lebanon, with a population of 4.4 million is currently hosting 1.1 million Syrian refugees. 75% of the Syrian refugees in Lebanon are women and children. With the proliferation of female-only families, these female refugees are taking on traditionally male roles to survive and are supporting families alone for the first time in their lives.
The mass influx of Syrian refugees into Lebanon has put a severe strain on the host country’s infrastructure including their schools, hospitals and water supply. Refugees have exhausted their limited savings, and in some cases have been working informally to provide food for their families. Syrians have been exploited with low wages, poor working conditions and are at constant threat of being deported back to Syria. In Lebanon, the authorities require non-registered refugee Syrians to pay an annual fee of $200 for a residency visa and to acquire a sponsor to allow them to stay in the country.
Time is running out for many Syrians who have exhausted their savings and are living in constant fear of deportation for undertaking informal, yet essential work to feed their families. A donor conference – Supporting Syria 2016 – in February of this year laid out plans for neighbouring countries to allow Syrians the right to work and to scrap the complex visa renewal process in Lebanon. Amira Hassan of ActionAid says “We welcome this much needed change of legislation, but words alone are not enough. Until world leader’s words become reality, many more Syrians will continue to suffer in exile.”
Al Jazeera meets 5 women struggling to survive in Lebanon.
Khuloud Kerbaj is a 32 year old refugee who’s husband has skin cancer and is unable to work or pay for his long-term cancer treatment. Khuloud, who holds an accounting qualification, currently earns 20 us/day painting and decorating, and has become the main breadwinner of her family: “The crisis had a great impact on us, both men and women. Firstly, we lost a lot of our country’s men, and many women were widowed. I don’t think anyone in the whole world faced what we women did in Syria. We were the ones most affected. We are alone, some have lost their father, brother or husband. Her Husband, the house’s backbone is gone.”
Amira Hassan Al Bdroun, 31 year’s old, is from Daraa, Syria and has been living in Baalbeck for the last 4 years. She is now divorced. With no official right to work, she has become active helping others and works at the local gas station giving fuel to refugees: “the men smile and laugh when they see me working at the gas station. When you practice this kind of job, you have the feeling you are empowered. When I left Syria, I was so scared about how I would live alone, sleep alone in the garage at night with my kids, now I don’t care, I can work and walk around and I don’t worry.”
Ghroub Edriss, born with a ‘gold spoon’ in her mouth, now finds herself delivering water to her small community in a tractor. After arriving in Baalbeck, she started working on the farm. “As my husband was away some of the time, I ended up driving the truck and selling the water in the neighbourhood. The men are surprised to see me driving the truck. Women are equal to men, we are sisters of men. In my family we are all equal.”Back to Projects