Women-only centre in Azraq Camp restores refugees’ love for lifeThe Danish Refugee Council’s (DRC) new female-only space is providing respite to refugees of all ages.
Amid the cold and barren landscapes of Azraq’s desert, over 80 women and adolescent girls came together to celebrate the official opening of the first Women and Girls Safe Space in the entire village.
For the first time since their arrival in the camp, a group of girls had a space that welcomed them to put their skills on show in a lively performance that featured traditional Syrian songs and dancing, while the audience erupted in jubilation, jumping up and down and dancing in joy.
“It’s been a while since we’ve all sung and danced. We need it so bad” said Fatima, one of the women refugee volunteers working in the new centre.
Since the Syrian civil war broke out in 2011, 5.6 million Syrians fled the country as refugees. According to UNHCR, Jordan hosted over 700 thousand Syrians, around 40 thousand of which reside in the Azraq Camp. The camp adopted a village-based approach that aims to foster a greater sense of ownership and community among residents.
Funded by UN OCHA’s Jordan Humanitarian Fund, DRC’s Women and Girls Safe Space was launched in Village 2 with the goal of offering a safe space for females to relax, socialize, build support networks and engage in recreational and empowering activities.
“This is where we come to forget about our worries and problems”
The centre mainly offers structured protection and economic empowerment activities tailored to help the women learn new skills and generate income. Most of the women in the camp have undergone some kind of loss, and have to live through the devastating consequences of being displaced. From food insecurity to discrimination and loss of educational opportunities, women in the camp yearned for a safe haven that welcomes them all no matter what.
“I’ve always dreamed of going to school and learning how to read and write because my parents made me get married at a very young age” said Huriyya, a refugee and a regular visitor of the centre, with a hint of regret and despair in her voice. Before arriving in the camp over three years ago, Huriyya had never been anywhere outside her village back in Syria and never got to experience or learn new things. “Whenever there’s a new training course, I sign up for it. I’m always at the top of my class. One time, the teacher got me a gift for doing so well. Ask her if you don’t believe me, she’ll tell you” she added as a big smile drew on her face.
Huriyya is now an elected mayor at her village where she makes sure the area remains clean and safe. “It just feels good to finally feel like I can do things. I’m independent, and I want to learn how to read, write and do everything I never thought I’d get to do”.
DRC plans on reaching 950 women in the next five months through a number of training programs that will be split between livelihood and protection activities. Some of these trainings will include sewing, embroidery, beading, psychosocial support activities, etc.
According to the DRC staff present at the Azraq camp, the women’s needs are taken into consideration when designing the training programs, starting with literacy training which a high number of women have asked for.
Plans for the women-only centre also include building a sports area with a running track that will help the women stay active and healthy. “Some of the women bought track suits already and cannot wait until the track is complete” added a DRC representative.
In a place like the Azraq camp, it is important to introduce activities and spaces that ensure women are in their best mental and physical health because they usually bear the responsibility of caring for each other and for their children, often in very difficult situations. With 3/10 households being headed by women, it is no surprise that this centre is extremely popular among female refugees residing in the camp.
“This is where we will learn new skills and become independent. This is where we get to prove ourselves” told us another regular centre visitor, enthusiastically.