Knitting lives back together

8 March 2018
Haneen, now 22, is a volunteer at the UNFPA-supported Women Centre in Debaga camp. © UNFPA Iraq

Haneen Ali* from Mosul was 19 years old when the conflict forced her and her family to flee their home. Alongside her parents, she walked through mine-planted fields to find safety in the Debaga camp for internally displaced people.

“The journey was long and tiring. I had to leave my life behind to start a new one at a camp for displaced people. I knew I had to focus on my education if I wanted to overcome this unexpected turn in my life. I couldn’t just give up,” she says.

Haneen continued her studies from home; she kept reading books and educating herself. “Learning from a tent made me feel strong; I felt that I can do much more than just sit around,” she explains. Her goodwill guided her to one the UNFPA-supported Women Centres run by Al-Mesallah in the camp. 

“I reached out to al-Mesallah and learnt about the Women Centre. I knew how to sew from my mother; I used to watch her when I was a child and I grew up helping her knit some clothes for my siblings,” she adds.

Haneen applied for a volunteering gig as a sewing trainer and being the talented determined girl she is; she was immediately accepted for this responsibility.

“It is not about sewing, to be honest; these women attend the sessions I give looking for a friend, for an escape, for a place where they can forget their miseries and feel useful,” she says referring to the hundreds of women who often come to the centre to benefit from its various recreational activities.

“These women gather as friends do in a neighbourhood,  casual ladies’ get-together over sewing pieces of clothing. Some, however, come with deeper pains; for them sewing this piece of cloth feels like knitting their own lives together and heal their wounds,” she continues.

During these sessions, discussions on different issues are held among the women. They talk about sexual harassment, gender-based violence, domestic violence, partner abuse, and even illnesses and diseases that women are prone to. The Women Centre in the Debaga camp provides psychosocial support services in addition to the recreational activities it offers women and girls.

Haneen’s loving nature and willingness to help and listen to others made her one of the most trusted faces in the centre. Today, three years into her displacement, Haneen touches the lives of hundreds of young women in the camp, who like herself, are internally displaced and far away from home.  

*Not her real name


UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, delivers a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe and every young person’s potential is fulfilled.

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