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Jana Mustafa is a former employee of a local NGO and a survivor of violence. She lost her job due to an abusive marriage and experienced years of physical and psychological violence. She got a divorce with the legal help of the Hayat Centre in the Gaza Strip. The Centre is supported by the UN Women programme, “A Holistic Approach to Sheltering Services for Women Victims and Survivors”, funded by the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation (AICS). As she hopes to begin a new life, Mustafa wants to open a small business to support her six-year-old son Jamal and prove that her disability is not an issue.

I lost my left leg when I was one-and-a-half years old. It was from a faulty vaccination that my cousin and I received. My cousin died on that day.

I was never ashamed of having a disability. I was always confident and dressed well. I also had a job at a local NGO that provided me with vocational training. People often wondered how I got such job with a disability. I did not care what people thought of me.

I met my former husband through a friend about 10 years ago. I became his second wife and lived in a separate house from his first wife. But soon, he started bringing other women into my house and beat me whenever I tried to stop him. He also threatened me not to tell his first wife about the other women.

When my family learned about his behaviour, they asked me to divorce him. I didn’t know what to do… As my family kept coming to my workplace, I started missing work to avoid them, and soon got fired. I requested to talk to the director of my organization about my situation, but my request was ignored.

I held on to the marriage because of my son, but the abuse didn’t stop.

My former husband did not support me financially; but he used my disability to make me feel weak. Finally, I decided to get a divorce and consulted an organization supporting disabled women. They referred me to the Hayat Centre, where I got psychosocial support and free legal aid. The lawyers at Hayat were really helpful. When I received the paper saying that the divorce is approved, I cried like a baby; I was so relieved. I used to be shy, but now I am a different person, thanks to the psychosocial help I received from Hayat. I speak out whenever I see injustice.

However, my economic situation is very difficult as I have been unemployed for a long time. Me and my six-year-old son Jamal live on a government subsidy of $60 per month. I have applied for many different jobs, but they all saw my disability and did not give me a chance. I am talented in handcraft and hair styling. I want to open a small business where I do not have to be judged by employers who do not know what I can offer. Disability shouldn’t stop anyone from starting over.

Jana Mustafa

Photo: UN Women/Eunjin Jeong