In the words of Retibe Bilal: “Life is beautiful. Resist, set a goal and never stop!”


Retibe Bilal is a Syrian refugee who has lived in Gaziantep, near Turkey’s border with Syria, since 2013. She describes how the SADA Women-only Centre, which provides livelihood skills and psycho-social services to refugee and local women in Gaziantep, helped her build her self-confidence, learn new skills, and transform herself. Established and managed by UN Women, the SADA Women-only Centre is run in partnership with the International Labour Organization (ILO), the Association for Solidarity with Asylum Seekers and Migrants (SGDD-ASAM), and the Gaziantep Metropolitan Municipality, with financial support from the European Union (EU) Regional Trust Fund in Response to the Syrian Crisis, the 'Madad Fund', and the Government of Japan.

Retibe Bilal. Photo: UN Women/Sinem Aydin Lopez
Retibe Bilal. Photo: UN Women/Sinem Aydin Lopez
Quote I got married when I was 21. I was a housewife in a very conservative community in Halep, Syria. When I couldn’t get pregnant for eight years, my husband married another woman. I lived with them and their children. We moved to Turkey in 2013, fleeing the conflict in Syria. Living with my husband and his second wife was like being in prison. I wasn’t allowed to go out – even if it was to the hospital. Not speaking Turkish was a serious challenge, too, it made feel isolated. One day, my husband suddenly divorced me. I was totally emotionally destroyed, weak and lost the will to live.

My life took a turn when a Syrian neighbour who is a member of Women of Future Committee, a network of Syrian women refugees working to empower women refugees since 2015, told me about the SADA Women-only Centre. At first, my family didn’t want me to go to the Centre by myself as I was a divorced woman. It took some time to convince them. Now, they see my improvement since I’ve started going to the Centre and are happy.

I took part in gender equality training at the SADA Centre and received social and legal consultations. This transformed me. The committee and the SADA Centre helped me build my self-confidence and empowered me. I discovered my abilities, learnt my place in society and about my rights. I started to speak up and stand up for my rights. On International Women’s Day, 8 March, the SADA Centre hosted a women-only festival where I read a poem I wrote and took part in a theatre play. I now feel a totally different person, someone who has goals and is useful to society.

One day, the SADA Centre called me about a World Health Organization (WHO) project that was training home care nurses for Syrian elderly and disabled refugees. That call completely changed my life. I registered for the training without hesitation. Once I complete the training, I will work as a home care nurse.

My eyes fill with tears when I think how the SADA Centre has contributed to my personal development and transformed my life. Many people told me that I was a lost cause and would never succeed.

Now, despite my current difficult condition, I have goals in my life. I will work, earn a livelihood and continue to improve myself. And then, I will get a driving license and buy a car!

I’d like to say to all refugee women: Being a refugee woman doesn’t mean that you are weak. You have a strong and determined woman within you. Don’t give up no matter how difficult the conditions are. Be confident and strong. Life is beautiful. Resist, set a goal and never stop!”