COVID-19: Semah’s wake up call

“I do not want to be a regular housewife anymore. I have my dreams and I want to achieve them so I can be useful to others in my community as well as to feel satisfied with myself. The COVID-19 pandemic was a wake-up call for me, I realized that I had to change my situation and do something meaningful with my life,” said Semah, a Syrian mother of four children.

Semah has been living in Kilis, Turkey, for eight years with her husband and four children. She used to be a stay at home mother who focused on taking care of her younger children whilst her husband was at work. When the children started going to school, Semah found herself spending lots of time alone at home as both her children and husband would spend the day away from home. 

When the pandemic hit Turkey in March 2020, Semah’s husband’s job got affected and this affected the income of the family. Semah had been taking some free sewing classes at a nearby education community center to keep her occupied during the day but had never had a chance to use her skills to raise income for the family.  

That changed in April 2020 when IOM provided sewing machines and raw materials to the Kilis municipality as a way to help meet the demand for free face masks at hospitals and markets in the city. The initiative was also a way to provide job opportunities for the unemployed people with sewing skills from both host and refugee communities. 

Semah was one of the women selected to work on the project. “I feel proud,” she said. “I am no longer just a consumer in this community because I am taking a part in fighting the pandemic. It made me realize that I can do more for the community that received me and made me feel safe after experiencing the terror of war in my country,” Semah added. The masks that the community center has been producing have been distributed to vulnerable members of the Kilis community and this has helped reduced the spread of the virus within the city. 

In addition to helping her community by producing the masks, the income Semah has been earning is also helping her family through this tough period when her husband is working less hours. “The lockdown caught us by surprise,” she said. “My husband has been working less hours, but the prices of goods keep increasing so we really needed the additional income,” she added. 

When the pandemic ends, Semah would like to pursue her studies and work hard on opening a center for training and educating women from both communities. “I believe all women can get jobs once they get the chance and I want to provide that to them,” she said. “The pandemic was a wake-up call for me and I want to do more with my life,” she added.

IOM Turkey continues to provide support to different municipalities and local authorities across the country with resources to help reduce the spread of the virus especially among vulnerable members of the community.