At first glance, Ferial Youakim appears similar to any other woman. She has a successful business as an image consultant, an adoring husband and three grown-up children who make her proud. Beyond what’s visible on the surface, Ferial’s remarkable story epitomises hope, courage and perseverance.
Born and raised in Lebanon, Ferial grew up in a Palestinian refugee camp in Beirut, which for most, was a permanent solution for thousands of displaced Palestinians who no one wanted. Later in life, she moved to Australia where she eventually married, started a family and received her citizenship.
“When people look at who I am now, they see a strong woman who stands up for the things she believes in. They see someone who is successful and influential but life has not always been easy. I’ve faced many situations that have left me feeling lost and hopeless.”
As an image consultant, Ferial revels in showing her clients their beauty. Behind the scenes though, she has struggled with her own issues with confidence and self-esteem. In her youth, Ferial was teased about being Palestinian, and terrifyingly she was forced to live with the man who murdered her father.
Ferial speaks candidly about the loss of her father proving to be her greatest test in life; and how as a result, her family’s lives were turned upside down and they could no longer live together. It was a devastating time that paved the way for the family to leave Lebanon in search of a brighter future.
“Australia changed our life because we had basic human rights we were denied when younger. On the outside, I was strong and a symbol of hope but on the inside, I was broken. It was only through others seeing the strength I was unaware I had, that I was able to shift my focus and start looking at the opportunities around me.”
Ferial speaks fondly of her family who are her ‘go to’ when she’s in need of help. She credits them for teaching her how to love herself, which she now sees as something that was been born out of their love for her.
Today, Ferial’s mission is to inspire others and to help people understand that when things get tough, the universe has a plan for us that always becomes clearer in time.
“I once felt ugly and ashamed because I was a refugee. Now, I tell women that if I can make it, so can they. I tell them they are enough as they are.”
Ferial shares the details of her full story in her book, Beyond Beauty which she is launching in Sydney at 11am, April 21.
Tickets are $30 with 20% of proceeds going to STARTTS NSW Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors. Details of the event can be found in our upcoming events page or you can purchase a copy now via Amazon or from her website.
This article was first published on TEAM Women Australia.