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Syria Humanitarian Fund: Providing a safe space for women and girls

08 Jan 2018
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In conflict-torn Syria, many women experience psychological abuse, economic deprivation, battery, rape or denial of freedom have nowhere to turn. Credit: OCHA

With the support of the Syria Humanitarian Fund (SHF), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) is helping Syrian women and girls affected by gender-based violence (GBV) by providing them with safe spaces in Aleppo, Homs, Hama, Al-Hasakah and Rural Damascus Governorates.

“When ISIL controlled AL-Raqqa, I was afraid to leave my house,” said one woman benefiting from the services at the safe space in Ras Al-Ain city in Al-Hasakeh Governorate. “When I entered the safe space - I felt that there is still goodness in the world. I learned sewing and received a sewing machine that will allow me to work and support my family,” she added.

A woman receives skills training in Al Hassakeh. Credit: AlBirr/AlHassakeh/Syria/2017

The safe space also provides female heads of households with vocational skills training to help them support their families. The wide range of services offered in the space includes social and legal counselling, psychosocial support, vocational training courses and entertainment activities.

Violence against women and girls is the most pervasive human rights abuse in the world, affecting every country and community: one in three women will experience some form of abuse in her lifetime.

In the conflict-torn Syria, GBV leads to particularly devastating consequences, as more than half of the country’s healthcare facilities have been damaged or destroyed. In many cases, women experiencing psychological abuse, economic deprivation, battery, rape or denial of freedom have nowhere to turn. This reality sees women and girls resorting to dangerous practices such as forced, temporary and early marriage and trading sex for benefits in order to pay rent or gain access to services.

“In times of crisis, the incidence and severity of these forms of violence may increase and we are seeing that many women, girls, boys and men are suffering as a result of the conflict in Syria,” Dan Baker, Syria Regional and Response Advisor for UNFPA said in a recent statement. “We need to support the survivors and work to prevent the occurrences.”

In 2017, the continued damage and destruction of public health infrastructure across Syria put existing health facilities under additional strain, limiting the vulnerable people’s access to medical assistance and critically affecting remaining facilities and availability of staff to provide services.

Besides the safe spaces, UNFPA’s support extends to health facilities that provide services to affected women and girls, and includes distribution of hygiene kits. The SHF-funded project targets an estimated 838,870 beneficiaries (about third of which are internally-displaced people) with an estimated budget of US$2 million in 2018.