life-stories-series-Jameela-hissah-Abu Dhabi

Tell me a bit about yourself. What do you want the world to know about YOU?

My name is Jameela Yasin. I am 17 years old. I am the 9th child of my mother who had a total of 14 children. Out of those 14 children, 7 passed away – some right after they were born and some as teenagers due to various sicknesses. At the time of my birth, we were in such a bad situation that my mother did not have clothes to put on me so she put me in a cloth sack used to store rice. Growing up in the village, we would only have one meal a day. I would help pick cotton in the fields with my sisters. My parents and siblings did not receive any formal education and we were living in a dire situation, so we decided to move to the city for better work opportunities. My mother worked as a cleaning lady in a number of houses to support us, while my father did nothing to help out.

Due to the financial burden, I was sent to work at the age of 6 earning only 500 rupees per month ($7). I continued to work in people’s homes, helping with their kids and other tasks around the house. I have helped with nursing older women as well who were unable to care for themselves. For the past 4 years, I have been working at a home where I feel very comfortable. I feel as if it is my own home where I can eat, drink, and do as I please. The lady I work for is like my friend and sister more than my employer. She has 2 kids whom I love deeply.

I have faced many tragedies in my life. From poverty to abuse to family disputes to the deaths of loved ones. My childhood was stolen from me when I was sent to work at such a young age. I was not able to go to school though I always had a great passion for learning. I am a quick learner and picked up the English language just through listening to others speak. My parents got me engaged to someone I did not want to marry. Lucky for me, 2 weeks before we were meant to get married he ran off and married someone else. My mother was devastated as it was her sisters’ son, but I was secretly very happy.

Then finally a great happiness came in my life in the form of Mohammad. I knew him from when I was a child and always admired his respectful, loving, and gentlemanly nature. He stood apart from every man that I knew. When I discovered he wished to marry me, it was the best news I had ever received in my life. We got engaged and he showered me with gifts and love and respect. Then tragedy struck. One day before we were meant to get married, he went out in the morning to get vegetables for his mother and he was struck by a truck and died on the spot. His death shattered me into a million pieces. What made it worse was his family and relatives blamed me for his death – saying I was cursed and bad luck. Happiness and love still has not found its way into my life, and I still mourn Mohammad’s death but I try and stay brave and strong. I will never be able to forget him no matter what happens.

Describe a typical day in your life.

I wake up at around 9am, have breakfast and coffee, and then I start my household chores. I sweep, mop, clean the kitchen, do the laundry, wash the bathrooms. By the time I am done, it is lunchtime. I have lunch with the family I work for, we sit together and eat and then the kids take a nap and during their naptime I sit in the room they sleep in and watch an episode of my favorite TV serial. When the kids wake up, we usually take them to the park for an hour. I have made friends in the park too with other girls who work in our apartment complex, so I get to sit with them and chat. Once we bring the kids back inside, I help out with their evening routines of taking a bath, having a snack etc. After dinnertime, I clean the kitchen and do the dishes and then I talk to my family on the phone. Then I go to sleep. I go home to see my family for 2 days every 2 weeks.

What was one of the biggest challenges you faced during your journey to where you are today?

I have faced so many challenges that I can’t pinpoint one. Just surviving has been my biggest challenge. Trying to remain interested in living, to learn to laugh and smile and enjoy life after each tragedy has been the most difficult for me. I may seem outwardly strong, but I am so fearful. Fearful of being hurt again, fearful of loss again, fearful of betrayal or abuse. I am even afraid to be happy again. If ever I feel excited or joyful, it is quickly overshadowed by the fear that it will be taken away from me. I just wish to live a normal life.

Who would you describe as a role model and why?

I don’t have any specific person in mind, but I aspire to certain things. I wish to be a good wife and mother one day, as well as be independent and educated. My dream is to learn how to read the Quran well and then teach it to others. I hope to find a supportive and kind husband who will encourage me in these things.

Tell us one thing about you that most people don’t know.

I trust people very easily and I make friends with everyone I meet. Being friendly, is a positive thing for me because I can make bonds with people easily. However, trusting too easily has been problematic for me! Also, I don’t like hearing people praise me. It makes me feel awkward.

What is one piece of advice about how to cope with challenges/struggles you face in life that you would like to give to the world?

The first thing I would like to say is to face your problems with patience. Patience and having faith in God is the best thing you can do. Never act in haste. Be strong and be brave. Focus on what you have and not what you have lost or what you don’t have. At the same time, allow yourself to break down and cry if you need to – it is ok to have moments of weakness.

What is ONE word that you feel defines you? (It could be your profession, a personality trait, or a quality you possess).

I feel the best word to describe me is “ever-smiling”. Mohammad once told me to never stop smiling. For him, I try to face every situation with positivity and try not to let the smile leave my face.