A Super-hero MotherToday, countries in the Middle East celebrate Mother’s Day, and with ongoing conflicts in the region, mothers remain vulnerable and continue to face risks in their daily lives. As a mother, widowed and displaced twice, Shada is in constant fight for a better life.
Twice displaced due to wars in Iraq and Syria, and widowed over the last decade, Shada Abboud’s resolve as a single parent and businesswoman grows stronger each day despite the struggles she faced.
Shada Abboud was forced to leave her business and home in Baghdad, Iraq in 2006 after receiving repeated threats from local militias to close down her beauty salon. “They even came with their guns to our house and said it was a final warning,” she recalled. “It was a scary time and it was horrible to leave our home and our city, but we had no choice.”
Leaving her salon of ten years and beloved Baghdad behind, Shada Abboud fled with her two young boys and ill husband for neighboring Syria. “The trip to Damascus was hard for us because nothing was clear and at the time, I was the only one supporting the family,” she said. “I was always thinking of the next step and worrying about what our future would be.”
Two years later, Shada Abboud lost her husband and became a single parent to her sons, who she said have always been her priority. “I’ve worked hard to provide for them and make sure they focus on school.”
However, her hard work in Syria did not last very long as they were forced to flee again. Her decision to leave Syria in 2012 came after a rocket landed inside the courtyard of the boys’ school.
“The times we had to flee are when I’ve felt the lowest in my life,” said Shada Abboud. “When we first got to Syria, my kids were so young and we had to start from zero, then returning to Iraq to start all over again was very difficult.”
Five years since returning to Iraq, now in the Kurdish region of Iraq, Shada Abboud has once again rebuilt her life and business. “I feel the strongest ever right now,” she said, smiling outside her new salon. “I’ve got my business back and I can support myself, my boys, and even three other employees.”
“Iraqis see mothers as fighters for their families and children,” she continued. “Each woman has her own struggles and so each mother is unique and has her own story, but what we really need, in addition to material support, is recognition of our struggles and emotional support.”
With support from the Danish government and Regional Development and Protection Programme (RDPP), Abboud received a grant after successfully completing a business incubation course at a DRC-run jobseekers’ support centre that identifies potential entrepreneurs among the refugee, IDP, and host community in the Iraqi-Kurdish city of Erbil.