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Stigma prevents many convicts in Lebanon from fully reintegrating into society upon their release, but for women finding a job and re-establishing social and familial ties can be even more arduous. Asma – not her real name – was convicted of fraud and spent six weeks in the Baabda Central Women's Prison. Ex-convicts like Asma who have served time for a minor offense have to wait three years before their criminal record is cleared, while those convicted of more serious crimes have to wait seven years. It has now been a year and five months since her release and Asma holds a newborn in her arms while she talks of her struggle to regain custody of her other five children. When her baby is older, she hopes to find work through the NGO Dar al-Amal, which paid the bail to get her out of prison and has provided her with support ever since. However, finding businesses willing to employ women with a criminal record is an obstacle that the NGO is still trying to overcome.One of them is Sarah's Bag, a fashion house and social enterprise that employs convicts and women in vulnerable situations.Khawla – not her real name – spent five years in Baabda prison for drug dealing.
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