“Tear gas, tear gas…close your eyes and get down.” Words uttered by my mother as we reached the Iraqi-Jordanian border while escaping from Kuwait during the first Gulf War.
That moment, at the young age of 7, was the first time I had ever seen tears coming down my mother’s face as she screamed helplessly knowing that there is nowhere to run and nothing much that she can do besides cover my brother and I with her body to protect us from what is coming. We had been driving for many weeks from Kuwait to Iraq and then to Jordan where we would finally get on planes to go back to Egypt.
Prior to that moment, had you asked me about motherhood, I would have described it in one word: discipline. Living that horrific journey and as a mother now myself, I describe motherhood as endless love and sacrifice – sacrificing yourself and everything you have for those you love the most.
This is not any different for refugee mothers.
In 2017, my fate brought me to meet one Rohingya refugee mother in Bangladesh whose remarkable journey of fleeing Myanmar is etched in my memory to this day. She was 7 months pregnant with her second child. She had just witnessed her father and many members of her family being killed but managed to somehow escape with her four-year-old son hiding for 11 days until they miraculously crossed over into Bangladesh. She kept telling herself that she had to stay strong and remain calm for the safety of her children despite everything she had witnessed and the family she just lost. Her resilience is remarkable. Her bravery is limitless. And her love is sacrificial. I saw my mother in her eyes and myself in her four-year old son. I pray for them and others like them every day and I vow to do what is needed to ensure that they live in dignity while they continue to be displaced.
As Ramadan is here, what a better time to reflect on our work and actions. Millions of refugee and displaced mothers will welcome the holy month in incredibly difficult circumstances. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the situation for them even further, many of whom are already separated from their families, don’t meet their basic needs, have been forced to stop their children from going to school and skip meals to ensure that the little they have goes to their children instead. Mothers are the main pillar and strength of every family – displaced or otherwise. As one myself, I know very well how hard it is when I am unable to provide for my children or attend to their needs. The sense of guilt and powerlessness is damaging and crippling.
Ramadan for me is a month of reflection, patience, and fortitude. It is a month of generosity, compassion, and empathy. It is also a month of sharing what you have with others even if it is little. It is our duty and obligation as human beings to do what we can to extend a helping hand to those whose lives were devastated out of their control. Supporting displaced mothers translates into paying rent, having a warm iftar, clean drinking water, and children going to school. For displaced mothers, it also means that despite the pain and heartache, she can still see her family through and provide for her children during these challenging times.
Ramadan is a month that transcends beyond borders and time. While this is the month of giving, let’s commit to doing whatever we can for humanity and let’s ensure that the spirit of Ramadan is one that lasts a lifetime for our children and for many generations to come.
It took seconds for a refugee’s life to turn upside down. It takes the same amount of seconds to share the blessings of the Holy Month with a refugee family who lost everything. How will you spend that second? #EverySecondCounts
Acting Head of Office