Arowa was born and raised in the traditional culture of Yemen where she was entitled to the Bride Price for her hand in marriage. Instead of demanding material items like money, clothes, or a house, she made her fiancé promise to provide her with an education. He agreed, but did not follow through after the wedding...that was just the beginning of Arowa’s story.
It seemed that the goal of education was put behind her when, after two years of marriage and two daughters, her husband moved their family to the United States. Now in Texas with young children at home, Arowa’s husband had forbidden her from any type of schooling so she could care for them. After a third daughter was born and reached four years old, another request to gain an education was denied.
Arowa stayed vigilant and took it upon herself to find a way to gain the education she was promised. Being resourceful, she began selling items on eBay; with the $100 earned every month, she was able to afford an online course for a high school diploma. However, she kept dealing with the constant issue of having limited English skills, taking hours to type product descriptions and answer buyer questions on eBay. The online course was difficult for her as well, “I really didn’t understand anything because I had to translate everything and it was very hard.”
In 2012, her children were school-aged and Arowa was looking forward to attending the local college, but her husband remained opposed to the idea of education and intervened, “My husband did not want me to get my high school diploma so he moved us to California and made sure I got pregnant again.”
A year after her son was born, Arowa’s mother had heart surgery and she was needed in New York to care for her. Her husband said that she was allowed to go, but to leave all four children with him; he planned to quit his job to care them while she way away. Arowa pleaded with him to at least let her take their one year old son, especially since he was still breast- feeding. He reluctantly agreed.
Her flight out was cancelled and she was faced with a dilemma while waiting at the airport, “I had no money and the phone he gave me had no minutes, so I was stuck with a baby and had to get help from strangers so I could call my husband.” Unfortunately, that was not the last of her struggles.
After leaving California, Arowa discovered that her husband had secretly planned to take their daughters to Yemen while she was away. By the time she realized his plot, it was too late and they had already left the country.
Now divorced, it has been four years since her daughters were taken and she still waits and searches for them. Her ex-husband and daughters have returned somewhere in the States, but she is unable to find his exact location while he works only for cash, leaving no trail to follow, “I don’t know if I will ever see my daughters again.”
Currently living with her mother and son, Arowa remains strong fighting for her education and hoping for her daughters to return to her. She found LearningQuest and, in just over a year, improved her English skills and earned her High School Equivalency Diploma. As a Fall 2017 LearningQuest graduate, she is now a student worker at MJC and is already pushing through her second semester. Dreams of nursing school are in sight and have become achievable. The odds were stacked against her, but Arowa continues to succeed by staying determined and full of hope.