From life in exile to community leader: Ruba’s story

Ruba Rahme is a Syrian-Palestinian now living in Lebanon. She is part of the EU-funded Aswat Faeela (Active Voices) project run by International Alert together with the British Council and Search for Common Ground- Lebanon. This is empowering young Lebanese, Jordanians and Syrians to become leaders and advocates for peace in their communities.

"I was living in Al Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus before moving to Lebanon in 2013, two years after the conflict erupted in Syria. When I arrived I began working as a teacher and volunteered with several organisations with a focus on environmental issues and improving relations between host and refugee communities."

“How is it possible that a girl is leading you?”

"Two years ago I set up the 'Refugee troupe for heritage and folklore arts' alongside other partners, to bring together young people and children of different nationalities through music, theatre and art. I am very proud that we have already presented 21 artistic shows without any support or funding. We were keen on rehearsing everywhere: houses, other NGOs, in the streets. Through this work and my involvement with Aswat Faeela, I changed from being an exiled person seeking refuge to a positive leader.

I was able to supervise an artistic group of 20 Syrian, Palestinian and Lebanese girls and boys, but it was my sister, Salam, who was initially able to gather these youngsters around something that can be beneficial for them. During this process the youngsters were always confronted with a recurring question: “How is it possible that a girl is leading you?”

Despite this, Salam pushed her work forward and was able to create great and positive impact. She broke all limits and became a role model for different girls. My sister, my role model, is no longer living with us in Lebanon. She sought refuge in Holland."

Changing perceptions through law

"Salam isn’t alone in being subjected to this kind of questioning. Women are always confronted with a WHY. Why are you here? Why are you leading?

Women and girls are able to prove themselves in a society dominated by men and many are the sole providers for their families, but they are not looked upon as equals all the time. The law is the essential element that can change these perceptions. As long as it is unjust, society will be unjust."

For every girl and woman, I salute your efforts to build your communities and support future generations. We need to raise awareness around the rights of women, especially among men. We should help men understand that negativity should not be inflicted upon their sisters, mothers, daughters and colleagues.

> Read more inspirational stories from women around the world