Nazmeye Hasan grew up in as-Salhiya neighborhood of Damascus. She stayed there until 1975, when she moved with her family to al-Hajar al-Aswad neighborhood, south of Damascus. She says, “There was a huge difference between life in as-Salhiya and in al-Hajar al-Aswad. The former was relaxed and open - everybody knew everybody else; the latter was completely the opposite. We had to adapt to the lifestyle to avoid being socially excluded. In addition to that, the new neighborhood’s infrastructure was very weak, and it was almost devoid of shops. However, the area improved over the years in terms of services until it lacked nothing anymore, from schools to gyms and other facilities.”
Nazmeye’s family was conservative and of middle income, which led them to prohibit her from continuing her education beyond middle school. However, she managed to return to school after a 9 year break. She earned her high school diploma then enrolled in the Philosophy program at Damascus University, from which she graduated in 1989.
“I dropped out of school because my parents were conservative and wouldn’t allow me to pursue my education, but this changed after I got married,” she says. “My husband encouraged me to finish school and obtain a university degree, and provided me with both financial and moral support. Most women didn’t continue their education beyond middle school or even earlier.”
During her nine-year period out of school, Nazmeye learned and mastered the craft of sewing. She worked as a fashion designer in clothing factories for 7 years, making good money. However, she started working as a elementary school teacher during her first year at university securing a series of one-year fixed-term contracts.
Working in fashion design then teaching, Nazmeye was able save enough money to start her own project - a nursery in al-Hajar al-Aswad area. She says, “I first got the idea when my uncle asked if he could use my university degree to obtain a license to open a nursery. That’s when I thought to myself, ‘why don’t I start my own nursery and make use of my university degree?’ And indeed, I started planning the project. Financially, I relied on myself, but morally a lot of people supported me. One of them was my former university colleague, the director of special education at the Directorate of Education, who helped me obtain authorization for the nursery in a short period of time. The municipality of al-Hajar al-Aswad also helped me in in many ways. In fact, I received support from a lot of people around me, particularly from my husband. As a result, the feedback from all those involved in education was that the nursery was very special.”
Nazmeye was able to work in the nursery and take care of her family of three kids. The nursery was very successful, yielding good profit for about 11 years from 2002 onwards. Teachers attended summer courses in collaboration with the Directorate of Education in order to acquire the necessary skills to work with children. They would also take the kids on field trips. Parents were happy and satisfied with the level of work and the way their children were treated. Consequently, the nursery grew to accommodate children from the surrounding areas as well.