Donna Hourani and her grandmother Jamilah Bechara
“My grandmother lives by the motto, ‘Whoever strives shall succeed'"
“My grandmother was the main breadwinner of the family – she’s been a seamstress, an embroiderer, a fashion designer, and she used to give classes in fashion and sewing. She had eight children who she raised with little help from other family members, all while working day and night. She built a beautiful house in a small town in the south of Lebanon, where my mother and all her siblings grew up, and the home still stands, with my 88-year-old grandmother still living in it, where she sits at her sewing machine, the very instrument that helped build the house. She was kind and very liberal beyond her time, in that she was very accepting of diversity. I come from a mixed religion family. My grandmother is Muslim, and it was very uncommon in Lebanon at the time to have mixed marriages in the family, but my grandmother was very supportive – she never criticised anyone’s background or choices. I’m so proud of that modern-day thinking at a time when it wasn’t common. She is a ‘live and let live’ person. Very calm, hardworking, loving, and generous. I’ve never heard her raise her voice to anyone, always approaching people with a soft, gentle manner. If she found me rummaging through her drawers when I was younger, she wouldn’t tell me to stop, instead she encouraged my curiosity. If I ever did something mischievous, she would just laugh and then gently explain why it wasn’t right. I have memories of her telling me bedtime stories from her head – not a book – during the summers we would visit Lebanon. I used to watch her at work, cutting, sewing and designing, as ladies would come in and out for fittings. She would then cook meals for everyone and tend to her organic fruit and vegetable garden. She was the woman who could do it all. She was every woman. She’s a true definition of a strong, empowered woman.”