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Syrian woman breaks social norms with car wash

Woman ventures into a man's world to feed her children

Rising from a village in south west of Syria is a woman who is breaking through social constraints and venturing into a world monopolized by men by opening the first car wash shop run by a female in the country.

With seven children to support, Sheikha al-Shaaban opened her shop by taking a loan offered by a program aimed helping women set up business in impoverished areas such as her village of al-Maal, on the border with Jordan.

"We want to make our financial situation better and to liberate ourselves from social norms," Shaaban told Al Arabiya. "Poverty and unemployment are serious problems here."

Shaaban noted that most women in her village and the neighboring villages do nothing except cook and raise children and they have no income of their own.

"However, when they see how profitable and useful projects like mine are, they will be encouraged to follow suit with similar or better projects."

We want to make our financial situation better and to liberate ourselves from social norms

Sheikha Shaaban

Sole provider

Ibrahim Qawsani, Shaaban’s husband, is currently working, but his wife insists on helping him support the family, making him subject to criticism from a society that expects the man to be the sole provider for his family.

“At the beginning, it was very hard,” he told Al Arabiya. “People used to say I am supported by my wife and that she borrowed money to help me. But there is nothing wrong with that as long as the money comes from an honest work.”

Since it opened the car wash has been a great help to people in the area, which is demonstrated in the number of customers that frequent it.

“We used to drive five or six kilometers to the neighboring villages to wash our cars,” said village resident Shareed Shaaban. “Now we come here and save a lot of time and effort.”

Shareed expressed his satisfaction with the fact it is a woman, and not a man, who supervises the washing of cars in the shop.

“Women are much better than men when it comes to cleaning work.”

People used to say I am supported by my wife and that she borrowed money to help me. But there is nothing wrong with that as long as the money comes from an honest work

Sheikha husband

Dream come true

For Shaaban, the shop is her dream come both financially and socially.

“I feel extremely happy now that I am useful to the community and that I am a productive woman. I am also capable of supporting my seven children and this was not easy at all before, especially when my husband did not have a job.”

Shaaban’s ambition does not stop at the car wash shop. She is currently planning to open a bakery.

“It will be another project through which I will be able to serve the community,” she concluded.



(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid)

I feel extremely happy now that I am useful to the community and that I am a productive woman. I am also capable of supporting my seven children and this was not easy at all before, especially when my husband did not have a job

Sheikha al-Shaaban