THE BLOG

She Could Have Been My Daughter

30/09/2015 17:58 BST | Updated 30/09/2016 10:12 BST

I have two daughters, Emma and Sara, who are 15 and 12 years old. They have loved their summer holiday. My younger daughter, who has a real passion for food and healthy eating, has just launched her own blog. It's amazing to see how full of life they are and able to fulfil their potential, and I am so grateful for that.

I have another daughter - she is also 12 and she has just escaped from the Islamic State - after being held captive for 11 months during which she was repeatedly raped. You might have read about her in the New York Times recently.

She is now in Northern Iraq alongside 250,000 other Syrian refugees, only a proportion of the four million Syrians worldwide displaced from their homeland since the start of the war over four years ago.

And 80% are women and children.

And she is traumatised and I cannot bear to think about what has happened to her and she is only 12.

She is not really my daughter - but she could have been.

I also have a sister - she lives in Northern Nigeria, a country with over two million displaced people due to the conflict in the North. Where one in three women have experienced physical violence. One in 13 women will die in pregnancy or childbirth. Nearly 70% of the population live below the poverty line of $1.25 a day.

I cannot even imagine what it means to live on less than $1.25 a day - in fact the women we help in Northern Nigeria live on $0.42 a day when they come to our programme.

Let's just stop for a moment and think what this actually means. It means that my sister can feed her child only once a day.

She also is not really my sister - but she could have been.

I think about that all the time - what a lottery it is that I was born into a family that had the means to give me an education and enable me to follow my dreams.

And I think about the girls and women who could have been my daughters and my sisters every day and that is what compels me and has compelled me throughout my life, to do what I can to help. Because our humanity links us together.

I was moved, like so many of us, I am sure, at the reaction of the world to Aylan's photo - the little three year old Syrian refugee boy who drowned recently - and it is my hope that it will be the moment that gives us all the bravery to do more to end this enormous human tragedy.

It reminded me of the compellingly tragic image of an unknown refugee who hanged herself in the cornfields of Tuzla after the fall of Srebrenica in Bosnia in 1995. Many leading newspapers published it around the world. The impact was profound; the image of the woman, later named as Ferida Osmanovic, became symbolic of the unknown victim of the Balkan wars. And a few months later the UN intervened and ended the conflict.

It was in Bosnia where Women for Women International first started its work. So we have been in countries like Bosnia, Afghanistan, Congo, Northern Nigeria and Iraq for over 20 years - and we are there 365 days a year on the ground helping women and their families improve their situation because we see women like Ferida, and children like Aylan or the 12 year old Yazidi girl every day.

And we know that if we invest in women and give them access to resources, they will be able to improve their lives and the lives of their families and communities - helping to create more peaceful societies, more prosperous communities - ensuring that poverty is addressed directly because we know that there is no long-term peace without economic and social development.

They go hand in hand - and that is how the WfWI programme is built - and the results we see are real. Women earn more, they are more confident, they speak out, they send their children to school, they become involved in local politics, they change their community to be more supportive and inclusive.

So when you find yourself overwhelmed at the fact that the UN estimates that every 4 seconds a person is forced to flee their home and globally 60million people are displaced due to conflict, please know that there is something you can do. There is something we can all do to help.

I have worked for over 20 years helping women around the world to rebuild their lives and fulfil their potential. The crisis that Syrian, Iraqi and Nigerian women are facing right now is playing on my mind every day - I do not want to wait any longer to provide the support they need right now.

And that is why we are launching our fundraising appeal to help 1,000 Syrian refugees and internally displaced women in Northern Iraq with practical support, help and psychosocial counselling and we want to help 1,500 women in Northern Nigeria with practical life skills training and income generating skills over the next year. You can support this by donating now.

Every penny you donate will go towards helping our sisters and daughters. They are not just a number or statistic, they are us - and we are them!

Thank you!