After a slow start, I’ve come to know some brilliant women in my life. (I’ve even helped raise some!) On International Women’s Day, I want to pay tribute to one of them on what is also, fittingly, her birthday.
That’s Fatima, standing second from the right of the back row in this Ahmad-Robbins family photo. She came to live in the UK four years ago after her life in Syria was turned upside down by war. Like all refugees, Fatima wanted to live her life in peace with her family, friends and neighbours . Now they’re scattered to the winds and don’t know if they’ll ever see each other or their country again.
Fatima was forced to leave her home with her two children and after a sometimes difficult journey, was able to join her husband in London. She escaped the trauma of one place, but replaced it with the alienation of another. A strange home in a strange city. But from the moment she arrived, Fatima has spread love, kindness and strength all around her. In the process, she’s helped her two daughters settle into school, where they’ve both achieved outstanding academic results and equally importantly, followed their mum’s example as caring, generous members of our society. Meanwhile, Fatima has given unstinting support and care to an older woman with dementia – my mum – a labour of love for which we can never thank her enough.
Fatima’s English is getting better, but my Arabic isn’t, so we’re not always able to communicate directly. But what I see in Fatima, as well as a person of immense courage and resilience, are human qualities that transcend words. Fatima gives life to a thousand expressions of solidarity and compassion. Her deeds are the most eloquent refutation of bigotry, prejudice and racism. In a metaphorical and literal sense, Fatima is international woman.