The world is replete with tales of the middle aged and elderly not giving up on their dreams. Here in Oman, in search of such nuggets, the Purple stumbled on Hasna Mohammed Al-Daoudi, an Omani woman from Sur, in South Sharqiyah, who has breathed new life to such a story, proving that it is never too late to make your dreams come true.
Kept chasing her dreams
Hasna Mohammed is certainly not that old, but at 46, she is older than most to complete her graduation. Although the feisty lady went through various trials and tribulations throughout her life, she never gave up on her dreams. She kept chasing them despite all the challenges that confronted her and proved to the world that it is never too late to achieve them. And, the great example that she has set for other women is that age is never a barrier.
Hasna’s big moment
For Hasna, the dream was to get a college degree and that became a reality in the summer of 2020. And she did not just do well – she did very well. Her truly big moment was when she achieved a GPA of 3.91 – distinguished with honours. And true to her nature, she is not resting on her laurels. After achieving her lifelong dream, Hasna has now embarked on other major educational plans.
Story of her life
But, before that she tells us why she was forced to get her graduation this late. Hasna was born in Kuwait and she is the eldest of her siblings. “We are 11 children (boys and girls). Out of this, seven were born in Kuwait and the rest in Oman. As a child, I had plenty of friends from various parts of the world, such as Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Palestine, Jordan and of course from Kuwait. “Kuwait was a civilised country and open to the world and so was the nature of our life there. But, when I turned 10, my family decided to return to Oman, which was quite different at that time. We came back to Oman in 1984 when the country was in its early Renaissance stage. And the march to progress was only just beginning then, which meant that the infrastructure and the urbanisation of the country had not reached all parts of Oman. From the time of our return from Kuwait, we were living in my village, Al-Sabakh, in Bilad Sur. Coming from Kuwait we felt we were transported to a very different world. We realised that we were in a society, which was clinging to different customs and behaviours, some of which we felt were quite strict at times. Throughout the 10 years of my life in Kuwait, I was aware that I had different roots and that I had another homeland. When I returned to my country, I loved the feeling of belonging to the land, the homeland and the civilisation. And despite all the differences that were there, I adjusted to it because I was finally returned to my own country.
Nurture the feeling of family in children
Even when I got married, I built a house next to my family home because I wanted my children to grow and understand what a family meant and I nurtured this feeling in my children right at an early age. Today, I live in my house with my husband and my male children, the eldest of whom is 26 and the youngest six. “We have also been next door to our friends for the last 36 years. We are linked to them by affection, mercy, solidarity, and other values that make my children cherish their civilisation and learnt the meaning of patriotism,” Hasna detailed.
Circumstances not conducive to studies
Hasna completed her primary education in Kuwait. And then when she moved to Oman, she also finished her intermediate and secondary studies in Sur. But even that was not an easy task.“The circumstances that I lived were hardly conducive to my studies. At that time, most parents were not convinced about the importance of education for girls. Moreover, if a girl happened to study well and was then sent abroad for higher studies, the immediate society sort of frowned down on this. Some were even of the opinion that sending girl children abroad could bring a bad name to the family. “I was surprised to find most of my classmates were getting married and some were not even 12. Two of my cousins were married off at this age. It was only a matter of time when relatives began to encourage my father to get me married. The only stumbling block, which was in my favour, was that I was a superior student and always stood first in the class,” Hasna recalled.
Married off at 16
But, the inevitable happened. Her father soon caved under the pressure from all ends and he began to accept proposals that soon came by the dozen.“But none worked, until, finally, I was married to a divorcee with six children and who was 25 years older than I. I was 16 and I was still in school then. I had no clue about it until the day the marriage was solemnised. “But God was on my side. My husband-to-be decided to postpone the wedding until he came back from abroad, which gave me a real God-given opportunity to complete high school. And once again, I did well. In fact, I scored 90 percent in the science subjects.”
Divorced after a year
However, that was the only leeway she got. Soon after the completion of her high school, her husband put his foot down and refused to allow her to go for her higher education. “This was very difficult for me to accept because I had good grades, which could have helped me to qualify to either the College of Medicine or Science at the Sultan Qaboos University (SQU). “But my husband was adamant that I should not register. And he made this very clear to my father, who had no other choice, but to comply with the demand. He was abroad and so I sat waiting for him at home for a whole year, after which he suddenly decided that I was not suitable for him and divorced me.” More than the divorce, Hasna was devastated by the fact that she lost a great opportunity to go for higher studies, which was one of her fond dreams.
Giving up the dream
But, then, after her unfortunate episode with her former husband, her father’s eyes were opened to the importance of education for girl children. “My father understood that education was crucial for women and it was a critical for their empowerment and that they had a better chance for a healthier and happier life.
“But we were still living in those early days and most families quite often bowed down to the will of the community. Now, it was my uncle’s turn to desperately find a husband for me so that people did not talk badly about me. Again, I went through the same rigmarole and they got me engaged to a young man from the tribe. “You must realise that the proposal came just two months from my divorce.
The unwanted fear of people talking about me and the so-called rumours weaved around my divorce imposed great pressure on us, rather on my family, even after the marriage so much so my husband refused to allow me to leave the house on my own. Everywhere I went, which itself was far and few in number, I was to be accompanied by my mother. Also, my husband refused to permit me to continue my education or at least take up some work so that I could add to the family’s income. Nothing. I was just told to be a housewife. Thus, I resigned to my fate and gave up all hope on ever completing my studies. I had no option but to surrender myself to my fate,” Hasna’s eyes moistened as she recalled those trying moments, when she almost gave up her dream.
Hope still flickered
After sometime, things began to change and hope also kept flickering in her mind, lighting up her dreams of completing her studies. “I realised that I couldn’t forget my educational dreams and I remember telling all my friends that I would somehow, some day, fulfill this dream,” Hasna said.Again, fate threw a spanner in her works. Her husband’s financial situation did not permit the “luxury” of a higher education for her. “Realising this circumstance, I quietly made up my mind to start my own business that would not only generate income for the family, but also open up an opportunity for me to help me complete my studies,” Hasna said.So, in 2009, she began an automatic vending machine project with a government loan of OMR5000. “The project took off very well and we ran it for five years after which it was stalled owing to some technical problems that cropped up.” But, if one door closed, another opened and soon, Hasna began an events-organising outfit, which she is still continuing to operate even today.“When I found that I had good income from my business, I decided to continue my studies, but with a special plan: “I got an IELTS certificate with a grade of 6 and an IC3 certificate so that I could shorten my university studies without a foundation year and registered at the Arab Open University and took a placement test that exempted me from studying five foundation courses as well.“That was in the spring of 2017 and I was able to complete the requirements for a bachelor’s degree in 135 academic hours and this (2020) summer I graduated with a GPA of 3.91 – distinguished with honours,” she exulted.
Graduated in the summer of 2020
Hasna had registered at the Arab Open University. “I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of the university life, which I have been dreaming about all my life. I joined the partial blended education system, so the study part was regular. The classes were in Muscat. I used to travel from Sur to Muscat two or three times per week to attend my classes and would never miss even one class for any reason. But then, because of the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic, I had to do my studies for two semesters by distance learning. The best part is that I graduated this summer. “I have been an outstanding student since my childhood and thus studying for the course never posed a problem for me. All of my life I have been preparing myself for this future. “Back at home, I was used to helping my brothers in finishing their university duties, including providing whatever help I could to assist them in their homework and other disciplines. I considered them important challenges and garnering of knowledge. So I stood to gain a lot of information in engineering, pharmacy, education, information technology, and even something as remote as auto mechanics.”
Information at her fingertips
In 1996, when the Internet made its entry in Oman, Hasna’s sister brought home a large TV-like monitor with several accessories. “She told us that this is a computer and she taught us how to use it. I loved it at first sight. So much so that I sold some gold and bought one for myself to learn more about it. I saw the world through a window inside my house and indeed, knowledge was at my fingertips. “I learned about office programmes and various other programmes without anyone teaching me. I also mastered both Arabic and English, which contributed to my own study plan.I also attended many and varied courses in business administration over a decade, during which I understood many business management theories and learned to apply them in my work.
Next plan: finish MBA
“My future plan is to go for postgraduate studies. And all of this is in preparation for that. I had planned well and so within two and a half years I was able to complete my bachelor’s degree. I have now enrolled for my MBA at the SQU, which I intend to complete within a year and a half, God willing!” Hasna revealed enthusiastically.
But how did she find the time to study?
“The study process was not very difficult. Also, I was perhaps a little selfish because I decided to focus more on my studies. I informed my family about this and although my husband found it very difficult at first and insisted that I discontinue my studies, I did not give up. I promised him that I will take care of both him and my children and they were not going to get affected in any way because of this decision. I made a strict schedule and stuck to it. Of course, sleep was often sacrificed, as I had to get up at the crack of dawn to rouse and prepare my children for their school, work at my establishment until noon and then wait for my children to return from school. Around 2.30pm, I would hurriedly set off to Muscat to attend my classes. I could return home only late in the night and most often my children would be asleep by then. This part was quite painful for me as I often missed seeing them in the night.However, I kept telling myself that all of this was for a cause and moreover, it was not going to take forever – soon, I will be back to the normal schedule!“I used to take full advantage of the weekend to review and to prepare my studies. Every Saturday, I would slip out of my home in the morning and would go sit in a café where I would peacefully study my lessons and return only in the evening to prepare my children for their classes.”
Juggling with family duties and studies
But, there were some challenging moments during this period too. Hasna’s mother went through an illness, which required treatment as well as an operation. “So throughout this period, I had to accompany my mother on her appointments. This is mainly because I am her eldest daughter and I understand the aspects of medicine much better and I can address the doctors too in this regard. Therefore, my mother’s first choice was of course me and so I had to be with her. So juggling this and my studies proved to be a major challenge. I remember when she underwent her knee replacement in 2018: Post operation, I was with her at the hospital and I was waiting for her to sleep, so that I could quickly review for my next day’s short test in accounting. Thus, with little ups and downs, the university period passed. And I must say I managed both my studies as well as looking after my family and for this I am ever grateful to Almighty God. I thank Him every moment of my life, because He gave me the will and the strength to achieve all of this without having to compromise on any of my familial duties.”
Any moments when she almost gave up?
“As I said, in the back of my mind, there was always this hope that somehow I will complete my studies. And then one day God gave me a signal that the time has come to make a decision. One of these messages came at an event where I was invited to talk at a programme organised by the Youth Vision where I had to tell my story in front of 300-odd university students. And when I was finishing my story, I just made a promise then and there in front of all of the students that I would get my university degree before the end of 2020. I never intended to say these words; they just came out of my mouth. And not only did I commit myself wholly to this promise, but thanks to the Almighty, I have also now managed to fulfill it!
Messages from God
“And the other message that came to me was a directive that helped guide me to manage my organisation. By this time, I had developed the habit of writing down the goals that I want to achieve and obtaining my degree was the top one on the list.“And I am inspired because of this voice of God within me, which tells me when it is ready for me to go and achieve whatever I dream of. When I hear this voice, I set forth confidently sans fear or hesitation.”
The biggest challenge for Hasna was to determine her study plan every semester in line with her financial and family circumstances. “Also, I had to devote considerable amount of time each semester to complete my studies – finding this time was quite challenging.After the first semester, my husband suddenly got frustrated and said I had to discontinue my studies. All my pleas fell on deaf ears; he simply refused to let me continue.So I sought help from my closest and most trusted friend. She knew me well and also my passion for learning.
Angel sent by God
“She was my Godsend angel who stood by my side, gave me full support and encouraged me to continue. She taught me how to convince my husband without aggravating the situation. I went as per her advice and I sailed through. Her unstinted support made me continue with my studies with determination. Like I said, God sends me these messages and sometimes, God even sends me His assistants to help me. My dear friend was one such assistant. Her role in helping me through that crisis is unforgettable and I will always remain indebted to her!”
Taste the fruits of her labour
And all her efforts did not go in vain. “In fact, I can proudly say that I was soon able to taste the fruits of my labour. I graduated with a major in Business Administration with a GPA of 3.91, and I was overwhelmed with tears of happiness after having achieved this long-awaited dream. And many of my loved ones, friends, family and acquaintances shared this grand moment of success with me.The feeling of achievement is strong and overwhelming. Such achievements help make a person feel reinvigorated and endowed with an extraordinary power that pushes him or her forward. So this victory encouraged me to not only chart my future steps but made me more confident that I am going to be stronger and better than before.”
“Of course there is a lot more things to do after this graduation. I have completely regained my confidence and with it my ambition has only redoubled. Since last February, I have registered for the MBA programme at the SQU and although many told me that I would not be accepted because the university has very high standards, I still went ahead. And thanks to God I got accepted into the programme, which has just recently (September 13, 2020) begun. And, I also have other big dreams, because today I see myself young again. And my heart has a great passion for learning as well as for life itself. My other plans include obtaining a doctorate and there is also a need to develop my institution and take it to greater heights. I also nurture this idea of becoming a lecturer at a university and over and above that I want to serve my community by becoming a member of the State or the Shura Council and work to inspire women in Oman. I wish and hope I could constantly do things in the interest of women everywhere and also help empower them,” Hasna enthused.
Family – source of strength
“From the beginning, my family has been the source of my strength. Even my little boy used to come to me and ask me what I had studied that day, and he will bring his books, sit next to me and study along with me. My eldest son became my driver and it was he who used to ferry me from Sur to Muscat and back when I went for my classes.He would wait in the car until I finished my classes and then drive me back.Credit goes to my dear children who supported me like a rock at all times. And never did they try to come in my way of my studies. Somehow they all manage to learn and study by themselves and while I did whatever I could, largely, they handled it themselves. They also helped each other and even assisted in the housework. They were really model children and I am proud of them!
“Today their happiness is the reason for my happiness. Although, I have never voiced it, they understood my efforts and knew that what I have achieved is a herculean task, especially under the circumstances that we went through. And their joy and happiness for my achievement is indescribable. And my husband has said for the first ever time that he is very proud of me and says now he understood the sacrifices that I have made. All of them — my mother, my brothers, sisters, relatives and friends – fill me with immeasurable love and I am really basking in the moment.“As I always say, success is not inherited but gained. And this is the biggest lesson that I was able to teach my children – I am sure that it will stand in good stead with them in the future.”
An ode to woman – by Hasna Al Daoudi
A woman is…
to everyone and everything
A woman is…
the air, the home, the heart
and the soul for all of her loved ones
A woman is…
a mighty force, combined with the right dose
of warmth, passion, sympathy, strength,
desire, ambition, determination and purposefulness
A woman is…
not just a multi-tasker,
but also the holder of all hearts in her heart
A woman is…
She is bright
She is the sea and the mountain
A woman is…
everything in one thing.