A month after devastating earthquakes struck northern Syria, Moufida Ghanem is mourning the loss of a son and the destruction of her home, which collapsed on her and her two boys, breaking her leg and killing her 18-year-old son.
Rescued from under the rubble with her 15-year-old son, Ali, the 40-year-old widow now finds herself having to cope with yet another loss. But she has been able to rise to every challenge so far.
“For the past six years, I have been the mother and father at home,” she told Al Jazeera from a tented encampment in Azmarin, Idlib province. “Now I have to be a mother, father and brother for my son.”
When her recovery is complete, Ghanem said, she will look for work to try to provide a ”decent life” for what remains of her family.
As the world marks International Women’s Day on Wednesday, a number of remarkable portraits of women’s strength are emerging from northwest Syria as it struggles to recover from the massive earthquakes.
Single or widowed women like Ghanem find themselves forced to live in overcrowded encampments where humanitarian organisations say they are at heightened risk of harassment and abuse.
The International Rescue Committee (IRC) has found that more than 60 percent of the surveyed households had a head of household defined as a person at risk, including female-headed households.
“Women and girls told us they do not feel safe going to the bathroom in overcrowded collective shelters,” Elias Abu Ata, communications officer at IRC, told Al Jazeera. “Some reported harassment.”
Most available shelter options also lack essential facilities like bathrooms and toilets, which has a disproportionate effect on the safety of women and girls.
More than 8.8 million people have been affected by the quakes across Syria, according to United Nations figures, and more than 105,000 people have been displaced.