Civic Imagination

The Beauty in Breaking

"Broken" - a song that perfectly describes Laila.

My aunt, Laila, is one of ten siblings. She was raised in a small Lebanese village called Ghazze. After getting married at the young age of 16, she moved to Caracas, Venezuela where she lived the worst days of her life. She gave birth to three beautiful children (two boys and girl): Mohammed (the oldest), Alice, and Bassel (the youngest). She had a miscarriage that left her ill for months after getting abused by her 'then' husband. Laila's life wasn't easy. After enduring physical and emotional abuse that was caused by her ex, she decided to run away with her kids and come to Lebanon. After filing for divorce, her ex-husband received full custody of her kids and appointed his parents, who reside in Ghazze, as their legal guardians after he moved back to Caracas.

After helplessly failing to get her kids to live with her in Lebanon, she moved to Dubai for work in order to get her life back together, and that she did! She started out as a secretary and got promoted to become a manager at a successful insurance company even though she lacked previous work experience and a college degree. In 2011, she received a phone call telling her that her eldest son, who was 19 at the time, had passed away in a car accident. She was crushed and devastated because she hadn’t seen him in one year and he was planning to visit her 3 days after the accident.

In 2012, her 16 year old daughter Alice ran elope with her then boyfriend and got married because she couldn’t handle staying at her grandparents’ house any longer because of how strict they were. Laila’s dreams of seeing her daughter in a white wedding dress never came true.
In March 2016, Bassel, Laila’s 17-year-old son, was sent to jail for repeatedly stabbing a man after getting attacked on the streets. Of course, Leila flew in to Lebanon for yet another devastating reason.

I’ve never shared this story with anyone because I always thought that it wasn’t my story to tell, but I guess it is time to change that. Laila is my biggest inspiration. “What would Laila do?” – a question I ask when I find myself lost in my disturbing thoughts. Earlier this year, I went through a difficult situation that left me lost and distraught 24/7. I’m very thankful for having such strong women to look up to in my family.
Laila became a powerful woman at 16; she didn’t have the privileges most teens have. She didn’t have the privileges I had. She has been through hell and back and still managed to be the cheerful and positive person she was and still is. I remember complaining about my braces at 16. Silly, right?

Laila’s willpower inspired me to get myself back on my feet again. I am certainly not as strong as her, but I aspire to be. Hardships prepare people for remarkable lives, and I won’t quit until I make mine extraordinary. 

Laila's story is one of a kind. She didn't just make it through just one hardship; her life has been an intense roller-coaster ride so far, but she made the best out of it. People always roots for the underdog and everyone loves to hear a good success story; so, how could this particular story not inspire millions?

Young marriage, physical and verbal abuse against women and custody rights are all ideas discussed in Laila's story.

The smaller the village, the closer the community, the stronger the values. Because Ghazze is such a small town, all traditions are still practiced till this day. Girls getting married at the age of 15 or 16 is pretty normal. Girls receiving diplomas and a higher education isn't considered essential because they're expected to be dutiful housewives. I guess that's why women feel oppressed and are more prone to getting abused. Also, because they lack proper education, they don't have the means to fight for their rights. The solution is easier said than done; if a minimum age for marriage were set by the government, the problems would start getting solved on their own.

Leila's story also challenges the stereotype that states that women are weak. We've seen the "damsel in distress" in movies, series, books and online where a woman would be desperately waiting for her hero (a man) to save her from trouble. Laila was her own hero. This inspires women, including me, to challenge stereotypes associated with women and becoming damsels of strength and success.

There is no pain stronger than losing a child. Laila lost all 3 of her kids one way or another because she made a foolish choice at the age of 16. When I ask if she regrets it, she says no. Laila is one of the most positive and cheerful human beings I know; she’s the life of every party and has the most contagious smile and the kindest heart. Hardships can make a person dark or lost, but Leila found light in her darkest hours and beauty in her suffering. She found herself. "There is beauty in breaking", she says. Laila is proof there is no force equal to a woman who is determined to rise.

strength, struggle, happiness, positive, women, power, success, education, rights, tradition, Lebanon

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