Behind the Headlines

How This Refugee Mother Is Supporting Her Family — All By Herself

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It’s not every day that a woman works as a farmhand and tractor driver in Lebanon, but that’s exactly what Nuhad El-Barqa does.

When El-Barqa’s daughter was only 15 days old, her husband was presumably kidnapped. He is one of the thousands that have vanished during the conflict in Syria.

“We always did things together,” she says. “He used to deliver the goods while I took care of the shop.”

After her husband disappeared, El-Barqa was afraid for her children’s safety. The city of Al-Qusayr, where she used to live, was under fire constantly. As more and more roads were closed, she stopped being able to get milk for her baby, as well. El-Barqa, alone and with two kids to take care of, left for Lebanon, where her brother lived.

“It was a journey we made under fire, shelling, and so on,” she says.

Today, El-Barqa lives with her family in Bekaa Valley. They are part of the 1.5 million Syrian refugees living in the country’s informal camps.

As a single mom, El-Barqa says she had to find a job that would let her support her family.

When she first inquired about working as a tractor driver, she recalled the farmers saying to her, “A woman wants to do our job?”

El-Barqa’s answer was firm: “If a woman can drive a car, what is the difference between a car and a tractor?”

Watch Nuhad El-Barqa's story above.

Refinery29 is committed to covering the women behind the headlines of the Syrian refugee crisis and working in partnership with The U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants. Read the full multimedia feature, "Behind the Headlines: Daughters of Paradise," here. More coverage on the human faces of the world's refugee crisis can be found here.

About Behind the Headlines

Refinery29’s original series “Behind the Headlines” takes an in-depth, human look at the policy debates dominating the global news media, from American immigration reform to the continuing struggles of Syrian refugees and Afghanistan’s lingering gender inequality crisis. Bypassing the pundits, we’re dedicated to spotlighting the stories of the people whose lives have been profoundly impacted by these issues, and believe that their voices must be heard.

Single Mom Lebanon Tractor Driver Refugee VideoReleased on June 20, 2016