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Hind educates women who have fled from Syria about their rights and possibilities in the Lebanon. Photo: Christopher Herwig
Hind educates women who have fled from Syria about their rights and possibilities in the Lebanon. Photo: Christopher Herwig

Refugee women support each other

Leila from Syria has been through a lot. She was married off as a child, has lived through war, and suffered from mental fatigue. But, with support from Kvinna till Kvinna’s partner organisation Kafa, she has regained her joy of living. Now, she is offering her support to women in the same situation.

Kafa’s center for women is placed in a multi-storey building in the Beqaa Valley in eastern Lebanon. It is a hive of activity. Here, women, regardless of their background, can receive psychological support and an education. One of the women who have sought help is 39-year-old Leila* from Syria. She fled to Lebanon three years ago, when the bombs fell over her hometown.

“I lost my husband in Syria, and fled here on my own with our children. Fleeing made me completely exhausted, and I was already traumatized by the war”, she says.

Leila looks out over the Beqaa Valley. Photo: Christopher Herwig

Leila has five children, three daughters and two sons. Two of her daughters have also received help at Kafa’s center.

“When we first came to Lebanon my youngest often wet herself at night, but she has stopped doing that now. The children are a lot better thanks to the work Kafa does for children in their situation”, Leila says.

Displaced women lead talks

Leila is renting a house for herself and her children. It is her responsibility to find ways to support her family, which is difficult to do as a woman and refugee. For a short while she worked as a housemaid, but the husband and the son of the family subjected her to harassments. The situation became intolerable and Leila had quit/resign.

“The first year in Lebanon the UN helped me with food. But that support has ceased”, she says.

Now Leila has a chance to make an income, since she is part of one of Kafa’s projects for displaced women. Hind, the project coordinator, states that about 30 women are part of the project.

“The project mainly involves violence prevention through informing about violence and child marriages – two problems that increase with poverty, conflicts and displacement”, Hind says.

Increased knowledge on violence

Through the project, Kafa estimates they will reach about 3000 women.

“I will be talking about what possibilities there are to get an education and a job, and raise topics such as child marriage, violence against women and health. And other subjects that the women themselves want to talk about”, says Leila, who will be informing at different locations in the Beqaa Valley.

KAFA (Enough) Violence & ExploitationKafa runs support centres in Beirut and Beqaa where they offer support to women who have been subjected to violence. The organisation also runs a shelter for women subjected to violence.

Kafa works to increase the public awareness and the access to information about violence against women, prostitution and trafficking.

Leila explains that violence against women is a widespread problem in Syria as well as in Lebanon.

“At Kafa, I’ve learnt that violence can also be psychological, that words can do harm in the same way as physical violence. Therefore, I’m very careful with how I speak to my children nowadays, I choose my words carefully.”

Education before marriage 

Kafa’s work against child marriages touches Leila deeply.

“I was married when I was 17 years old and had children early. It’s a destiny I don’t wish for my daughters. I think they should get an education first.”

Leila tries to take part in all activities that Kafa offers, and she particularly enjoys the yoga classes.

“I feel so safe at the center, and have learnt so very much here. I am grateful for that”, she says.

* Leila’s real name has been changed.

Ida Svedlund
Translated by: Cecilia Samuelsson

Updated in: 2017-01-25