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    2018 Site Visit to Hope Beyond Displacement Part IV - Women’s Advocacy

    Tricia R. Saur, Target Chair with contributions by Site Visit Participants


    A key goal of the Target Program is to improve the lives of women and girls. Empowerment is essential to achieve this. The Target Project, Hope Beyond Displacement addresses this straight up with classes designed for both women and men. Women’s Empowerment 101 and Gender-Based-Violence Awareness and Prevention Training classes run in parallel: the groups meet twice a week in groups of 20 for a 3-month period to discuss women’s rights, their roles in society and gender attitudes and behaviors. There will be a total of eight course cycles resulting in the participation of 160 women and 160 men and youth. Twenty graduates will then be trained to become trainers of these classes, ensuring the programs sustainability.

    SV WE101 Instructors Presenting

    Instructors displaying images used to generate class discussion.

    On our first day at the center, participants were split up into smaller groups and had the chance to meet with both of the recently graduated classes in a more personal atmosphere to hear their stories and ask questions. Being our first day there, we were uncertain how we would be received (intruders or  advocates) but it quickly became clear that we were welcome and the men and women were very willing to share their experiences with us… though by the time the third and fourth groups had their chance, they were tired and wanted to broaden the conversation by responding to questions rather than repeating their stories yet again. While each group heard different accounts, we each came away with an understanding of how the participants lives are enriched through these classes:

    Gender Based Violence (GBV) Prevention Training

    “This workshop was the most shocking for me, for I had not been able to realize before this session, the extreme agony displaced fathers of families faced in their jobless exile!  Here we had a gold smith, a neurosurgeon, a pharmacist and a would-be young actor, all without any possibility to practices their chosen professions due to their displaced status! These men therefore volunteered for training in order to aid other men who were suffering the same agonies about actually being displaced from their family duties as they saw them. Impotent to perform the duty of being a breadwinner.

    I learned that the men had became bitter, angry and sometimes violent before they received help at CRP.

    I was astonished to think that, despite their displaced status, women might actually be better off than their husbands because at least they could pursue the ordinary duties of child raising, cooking, sewing, that provided some continuity to their disrupted lives and at least kept them busy.  In addition the wives they had the possibility of turning their sewing, knitting, embroidering and crocheting skills into handicraft activity that could bring in some money - unlike their husbands. In other words they were relatively better off than their men folk while still suffering the anxieties of when they might return, where, and to what.

    I found that this workshop was of extreme value and I hope it can be expanded” - Judith Harik (AWC Lebanon)

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    “One of my favorite parts of the Hope Beyond Displacement Project has always been the gender-based violence (GBV) portion.  This aspect resonates with me, because the program works with men and boys to get at the root of GBV--both cultural expectations and personal stresses.  So, I was really eager to hear what the men from the GBV group at CRP had to say. Several of us were amazed at how open they were with their feelings, especially in front of Western women.  Later, I was talking with Samer, CRP Executive Director, Amanda Lane's husband, who leads the Men's Support Group. He said that the men find telling their stories to foreigners, especially women, to be very healing--they really appreciate others bearing to their pain!  So, far from intruding, as we were concerned we might be doing, in fact, we were offering the men a gift. It struck me that women are always talking to other women about their troubles, but men have very few outlets for their angst, since they generally don't share these things like women do.

    I was curious as to how the men reacted to messages in the group about gender equity and women's rights.  The men revealed that they originally mostly joined the men's group because they were bored and needed something to do.  They are professional men--a pharmacist, a radiologist, an engineer, who needed to use their minds. One man broke my heart when he told us that he was desperate to occupy his time, as he is all alone--divorced from his wife, no children living in Jordan.  His eyes radiated loneliness and pain, and as my eyes met his, he seemed about to cry. I just wanted to hug him.

    SV GBV 2The youngest man in the group, in his 20's, said that, at first, he thought he would leave the group because the other men were so much older than him.  However, when he stuck around for a while he realized how much wisdom they had to share and how much he could learn. A couple of men confessed that in the beginning they were resistant and skeptical, but as they attended the group, they began to accept new ideas.  It seems that the dramatic changes wrought in their lives by war and refugee status, opened a door for changes in attitudes and beliefs as well. Without exception, the men revealed that the GBV group had helped them to communicate better and to learn what to do with the anger they had been keeping inside.  Not only did the group lessen the chances that these men would take out their frustrations on their loved ones, but their own lives also improved as they learned how to deal with their emotions. That's what I call win, win.”

    - Therese Hartwell (FAUSA)

    “I was lucky to attend the last session with the men. They were tired of answering the scripted questions so we were able to ask them our own.

    It was interesting to hear the issues from a male perspective. The men spoke of how hard it was not to have a job and to have so much time on their hands.

    They felt that going to CRP helped them. They had not realized how angry they were and how they were taking their anger out on their families.  The meetings allowed them to figure out to work out their anger. They told us that now if they even raised their voices their wives tell them they would report them to the GBV leader. It was obvious that they respected him very much.

    They found the time they had been given improved the time they spent with their children and found it had improved their father/child relationships.

    I asked them what did they think should be done to end this situation (the regional conflict). They felt it was a complex problem for which they had no solution.” - Kathy Coughlan (FAUSA)

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    “My first thoughts: How are they going to change such a strong male dominated culture entrenched in ideas about male masculinity and deeply rooted in its religious beliefs? It can’t possibly happen…..

    I listened to the different gentleman praise their trainer Heshem, a refugee himself, for teaching them different ways to communicate, channel their anger and process their own trauma. The GBV group grew organically out of a men’s “listening“ group. CRP then brought in an expert to train them on healthy masculinity.

    Kamal, a pharmacist from Iraq talked about how the sessions have changed his life in many ways. He has been able to change his interactions with his wife and treat others with more patience. He said he feels like he is now a kinder more understanding man. He wants to continue the program and come more often to increase his communication skills.

    Another gentleman, a Radiologist, has been in Jordan for two and a half years. He said there is so much boredom as a refugee that he is happy to have the opportunity to learn anything. He is divorced and is very lonely with no family around him. He said that he had no idea what Gender Based Violence was and that he now realized that he was angry for nothing. The GBV program has taught him to have an interior awareness and ability to direct how he deals with others. He looks forward to continuing with the group and helping others in the future.

    SV GBV 4The youngest in the room was a 21-year old young man who at first told us, He didn’t know how this group of older men would identify with him. He thought he might be wasting his time. What he found instead was a group of mentors that have helped him increase his confidence in speaking and found new ways of communicating with others. What a success I thought! This is what these men hope to do in their communities - to go out and share what they have learned.

    I was so impressed with how open these men were to new approaches in communicating with women in particular and others in their community. You could see on their faces the tiredness and challenges they faced but there was also a light in their eyes and an excitement in their voices to know that they were a part of a group/community/brotherhood and that they might be a catalyst to change in their new found “temporary home”.  After all isn’t that what we all want, to be part of a community, to be helpful and have a purpose in life.” - Mara O’Day (AWC Zurich)

    Women’s Empowerment 101

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    “l'avenir réside dans le courage d'une femme à agir”

    - Noor al-Taweel – A Syrian Refugee and Participant in the Women’s Empowerment Program.


    SV Reem al TaweelNoor al Taweel mesmerized me, I felt myself unintentionally staring at her and formulating stories in my head.  I wanted to know her age, she looked very young, will she open up, what did she think of us, I just wanted to know everything about her, yet I knew we had to be very sensitive and time was limited.

    She told her story (or at least part) from her eyes and her smile which came out for brief moments.

    Her husband works 12 hours a day, she has two children (though I did not ask, I believe they go to school). She was often alone for long periods of time and the isolation had a harsh impact on her. She mentioned her parents remained in Syria which probably amplified her anxiety and tendency towards depression.

    Eventually she found CRP and wanted to join, however her husband refused and she respected him (some other women did not listen and went ahead). I believe in her own way she persuaded him probably under certain agreed conditions, that the joining of the CRP would help the whole family.   I did not feel that her husband was abusive, I felt more that their culture played a key role.

    So Noor finally came to the center, she enrolled in the Women’s Empowerment 101 Session and learnt so much about herself. The program changed her so much more than she ever expected.   For the first time in her life she understood that her opinion also counts, she is capable of making decisions, her role in life can be so much more. Someone asked “how does your husband feel now?” she smiled and said “the sparkle in our lives has come back”, the couple seemed reunited, they had regained HOPE (or at least that is what I would like to believe).

    Then right at the end, she told us that she had studied French at University in Syria and was hoping that if they managed to become settled in the USA, she could teach.  

    The session ended, so quickly I approached her (okay I might have even run) and spoke French, her eyes lit up and we started talking – the impact for me personally was very emotional, I could communicate (no need for the translator).   She explained that the program has changed her completely, she is a much more fulfilled person, something that had she remained in Syria she probably would have never discovered, she has found herself worth and was surprised to discover that it was okay to feel like this. She could not thank the program enough, she was so sincere and emotional.    At that moment a group of men walked into the room from the GBV program, I understood her body language and asked “do you speak with the men at the center?” She replied “No, this would not be acceptable” and she laughed. I encouraged her to remain strong and teach others. Noor for me, is a natural leader, respect is a given, she is emotionally intelligent and knows how to show empathy.

    On parting, she kissed me three times and said:

    “l'avenir réside dans le courage d'une femme à agir “  : “The future lies in a woman’s courage to act”.

    - Teresa Perez Y Landazuri (AWC Hamburg)

    SV WE101 3

    “The women who had recently finished the Women's Empowerment 101 training sessions were a diverse group but all were impressively confident and articulate. Damia and Munah were from Iraq, Noor and Sawsan from Syria, and Sameera, the trainer, was a Palestinian woman from Jordan. They all came to Collateral Repair Project initially for different reasons - food assistance, English lessons, curiosity, to volunteer - but they have become integrated into the CRP community and clearly have bonded.

    The Women's Empowerment 101 program covers 20 topics over a period of three months. Among these topics is the problem of gender-based violence (GBV), for which women in displaced families are at a particular risk yet may not be comfortable discussing. I was interested that this was the issue which the women mentioned most frequently in describing what they learned from the program. Although none of the participants shared any personal experience of GBV, they evidently knew of other women who had suffered some form of gender-based violence. They felt that it was vital for women to be able to express their rights and needs, including the right to be heard and respected, both within the family and within the community.

    Some participants were more naturally outgoing while at least one appeared to be from a very conservative background, which made her remarks all the more compelling. She said that being educated about her rights had given her more confidence and she felt that the dynamics in her family had shifted. The program inspired her to learn more and to become more involved with other programs at CRP.

    It's promising for the sustainability of this program that some former participants now are trainers who can, in turn, train future leaders of the program.”- Sallie Chaballier (AAWE Paris)

    SV Graduates

    The Graduates!



    Part V - Vocational Training & Economic Empowerment

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