Women and Girls in Syria build resilience through Safe Spaces

29 October 2018
"Her psychological disposition has remarkably changed. I can see her smiling more often, especially when she knows she has a lesson", Nivine’s mother

Women and girls are often left behind when investments, and dialogue on social services, education, employment and health care take place. Women and girls represent the most vulnerable group in their communities and worldwide.


Eight years ago, when the Syria crisis started, the situation for women and girls was exacerbated and they became more fragile and susceptible to violence during the humanitarian crisis.


Nevertheless, UNFPA intensified its efforts towards meeting women and girls’ essential reproductive health needs in Syria. UNFPA has been working in close collaboration with other UN agencies and local NGOs to respond to women’s needs regardless of their location, age, or marital status, as well as designing efficient empowering programs even in hard-to-reach areas. As a result, women are starting to make new life turns, gain a better understanding of their reproductive, civic and human rights.


Women in Syria face the dire challenge of displacement and refugee status. Hostilities, pervasive threats to life, insecurity, and financial instability, lack of basic reproductive health services and amenities and sexual violence are some of the challenges that Syrian women face every day. Even when faced with all of these, women in Syria represent resilience and solidarity. The women and girls in Syria, having endured these experiences, are susceptible to profound mental distress.


Nivine, a 23 years old young woman from Sahnaya Rural Damascus, is one of the beneficiaries whose life was positively impacted by services provided by Women and Girls Safe Spaces (WGSS). The center is based in Sahnaya and supported by UNFPA.


Nivine has Down-Syndrome and therefore has learning and communication difficulties and her mental disability prevented her from proceeding her studies beyond elementary school.


Nivine’s mother works at Sabt Alamal foundation, a local foundation targeting disabled people through which she discovered NFRD and became a regular beneficiary at the WGSS awareness sessions. Shortly after Nivine’s mother heard of the UNFPA-NOUR Foundation Women and Girls Safe Space, they visited the safe space, seeking to find hope and an escape for a better life. Nivine was later enrolled in an English language training course which offered appropriate teaching methods for her.


“Nivine is such an interesting young woman. She has the passion and determination to learn. She is also hardworking and active,” said one of the facilitators at the center.


“Nivine has transformed into a new person. She is more confident and aware of herself. Her activeness and eagerness to learn has equipped her with the positive energy to move forward. Although Nivine’s journey wasn’t easy, she managed to prove herself an active young girl and show that people with disabilities can reach their highest potential with the right support systems in place” Ahlam Halabi, English trainer expressed her pride in Nivine.


According to Ms. Ahlam, Nivine has never been absent to any of the classes during the training course. “In fact, she is always the first to show up, holding her books firmly under her arm.” “I am impressed by her enthusiasm to learn and her quickness to grasp new vocabulary and words,” Ms. Ahlam said.


Nivine’s mother, on the other hand, said; “Her psychological disposition has remarkably changed. I can see her smiling more often, especially when she knows she has a lesson.”


In efforts to transform the lives of women and adolescent youth, the UNFPA-Syria Gender Based Violence program has supported 35 Women and Girls Safe Spaces (WGSS), two Community Well Being Centers, One Family Protection Unit as well as seven Emergency WGSS Tents in 2018. Through these initiatives, UNFPA and its partners promote mental health and psychosocial support in emergency settings as a key priority to advancing women and girls’ involvement in communities and preventing sexual violence. Creating safe spaces, where women can receive the essential services they need promotes safety, healing and resilience and is a positive step towards achieving a world free of violence in support of women’s rights to ensure that no women, adolescents and youth are left behind and reach their highest potential.