The war in Syria, which has been ongoing for seven years, has led to the killing and arrest of a large number of husbands. Thus, it has increased the number of widows and single mothers. Syrian women, especially in Idlib countryside, have unwillingly turned into their own family's only breadwinners under difficult conditions of insecurity and instability. These conditions have been worsened by the scarcity or absence of job opportunities, in addition to all the outdated customs and traditions that begin to control women as soon as they move.
Rania al-Hussein, 24, from Idlib countryside (north-west of Syria), is a mother of three children, one of whom has been born with a disability. Rania became the family’s only breadwinner after her husband's death during the bomb shelling on her city Kafr Nabl. She had gone through a lot of trouble until she found a suitable job in a kindergarten.
She recalled the details of her struggle saying: "It was not easy to convince my parents and my brothers that I need to work in order to support myself and my children because they consider young women’s work in our society as shameful." She said that she had to make up her mind since the beginning, as she cannot depend on anyone and wait for someone who would give her and her children money especially that the financial conditions of her family are not good as well.
Rania managed to find a job as a kindergarten teacher with the help of one of her friends. Today, she is working to secure her children and her living, away from the pressure exercised by society and people. "The situation we are living in compels us to adapt to a new life. We want to live far away from society’s customs and rigid traditions," said Rania.
The increasing number of widows working in Idlib countryside has increased the demand for work, which made them susceptible to the issue of unfair wages, for their efforts have been exploited in exchange for the lowest wages. "My husband passed away more than three years ago due to the regime jets bomb shelling on our village. Since then, I have been working to support my six children. I have chosen agriculture because I do not know anything else," complained 40-year-old Magda.
She struggles to harvest potato crops, sow seeds and plough up the soil with others, but she complains about the low wages she obtains in return of the hard work she does. However, she is forced to accept this, for she believes that low payment remains better than nothing. She feels happy when she brings some food to her children at the end of a difficult day full of hardships.
Issam, Magda’s eldest son, 13, is proud of his mother, who is assuming a heavy responsibility for him and his brothers. "I tried to leave school and look for a job through which I could help my mother in order to cover some expenses, but she refused and insisted that I should pursue my education. However, I work during holidays to help her out," said Issam with tears in his eyes, sympathizing with his mother’s condition.
As the world is celebrating Mother's Day, mothers in Idlib countryside are going through battles which differ from those going on in Syria. For them, the daily life is a kind of a different war, for they have to adapt to their new situation and life, which forced them to assume the role of the father, mother, and breadwinner in a patriarchal ruthless society.