“I raise up my voice – not so that I can shout, but so those without a voice can be heard.”
― Malala Yousafzai
Today, Action from Switzerland will be launching a campaign called #MakeItSafe.
#MakeItSafe aims to highlight the plight and series of challenges faced by displaced women in this refugee crisis. In light of the recent callous attacks by fascists on Souda camp, Chios, where the vulnerable displaced population were set upon, causing one pregnant woman to lose her twins because of insufficient protection measures, it is more crucial than ever to speak up.
Having been on Chios since January 2016, we have been first hand witnesses to the impact of the EU-Turkey deal on our fellow human beings fleeing war and persecution, since its enforcement on 20th March 2016. The normally transient population of the displaced, was forced into stagnancy. Within this population, extra vulnerable groups with specific needs became more acute – one of which are the women and for months, we’ve witnessed them targeted, exploited and exposed to sexual and gender based violence in camps.
To address this, we opened, on 20th July 2016, the Athena Centre For Women, the first female-only facility outside of sites and camps in Greece. Since then, we’ve been able to create a safe space for girls over 12 – providing education, information, leisure activities, psychosocial support, for them to refuel and recharge, in order to continue to be the strength, patience and perseverance for their families and themselves.
In our humble attempt with limited resources in providing sanctuary, we realised that we have inevitably empowered them to speak up for the first time – about the discrimination and violence they have experienced.
We have documented their challenges in terms of psychosocial, health complications, physical harm, exploitation, discrimination and harassment. On top of gender-based discrimination, they’ve also been targeted on additional grounds such as race, disability or belonging to a minority group.
It is no coincidence that we’ve decided to launch the campaign on the same day as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.
We will however, be focusing on being the collective voice of the female refugee population in the camps. Because they need and want to be heard about their series of uphill challenges from the biggest humanitarian crisis the world is witnessing since World War 2. They want to speak about how often their voice and participation has been constrained and silenced, as their risk of violence, an ever-present reality for all women worldwide, significantly increases.
And we are going to help them do that through this campaign where they can speak up against norms around violence and women’s rights.
And know for generations to come that they can be stronger than they already are, powerful, and heard.
Through this campaign, we:
- express our deep concerns about violence against women and girls in refugee camps, who are constantly prevented from exercising any of their human rights and fundamental freedoms;
- want the relevant responsible authorities promptly provide safe, appropriate shelter and access by working jointly with the relevant humanitarian actors to identify and provide capacity building for the responsible security authority in sites around Greece, to ensure a protective environment;
- urge European governments to fulfil their obligations, at all levels, to use all appropriate means of a legislative, political, economic, social and administrative nature, to promote and protect all human rights and fundamental freedoms of women and girls, and most importantly, to prevent, investigate, prosecute and punish the perpetrators of violence against women and girls and end impunity.
Over the next two weeks, we will be featuring a series of stories articulated in photos, like the one below, paintings from a female Syrian painter who had to leave it all behind, and stories from the displaced girls and women from the camps here in Chios.
More details will be published tomorrow on how you can participate in helping us amplify their voices.
In the meantime, please LIKE our Facebook “Action from Switzerland” and follow us on Twitter (@actionfromCH) to be kept informed.
Because like us, you believe that it is infinitely powerful for a woman to know her rights and draw on her own power to create change than to be the passive recipient of circumstances and we invite you to stand in solidarity with us.