KHF Outreach
Creating Healthier Families through Counseling on Gender Based Violence and Reproductive Health to Syrians in Jordan
13th December 2012
Awareness Session Za'atari Camp Nov 8, 2012

December 13, 2012- The Noor Al Hussein Foundation’s Institute for Family Health (IFH) is responding to the needs of the women and girls who have fled the violence in Syria in recent months. The IFH has teamed up with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in order to provide awareness raising activities on gender-based violence (GBV) and reproductive health issues to Syrians in the Za’atari Camp near Mafraq and in Cyber City and the King Abdullah Park in Ramtha.

The UNFPA funded project also includes outreach to women in urban settings in Amman, Zarqa, Mafraq and Ramtha cities through its mobile team.

According to the UN, GBV is defined as any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivations of liberty in public or in private life.

Challenging Cultural Context

IFH Project Coordinator Rawand Samara says most of the women screened by the IFH indicated they suffer from some form of GBV and information about sexual violence is extremely difficult to secure as most are afraid to talk about it, due in large part to cultural taboos:

“First we sit with them individually based on the screening information obtained during tents field visits,” Samara explained, “we do individual psychosocial counseling sessions. Following the first two sessions we try to identify what type of violence is occurring, whether it be physical, verbal, psychological, or sexual and we follow up by providing psychosocial support through additional counseling sessions.”

The IFH works in parallel with other organizations and refers cases of sexual or physical abuse to other appropriate agencies when necessary as per the inter-agencies protection standard operating procedures.

For the Syrian women who fled to Jordan with a family history of GBV, the issue is often compounded by the difficulties associated with displacement.
According to Samara, a culture of violence plays a large role in the equation and tocounter that cultural context the IFH project  is working to empower women by creating support groups to let them know that they are not alone and to provide women who are suffering from the same type of violence with information to resolve issues in the family.
Awareness Session Za'atari Camp Nov 8, 2012
Outreach to Men

The project is taking a holistic approach by also providing needed services to men as well as to women. Most of the work with the men consists of awareness raising sessions and support groups that deal with topics including anger, stress management and coping skills. The staff also provides individual counseling sessions for the men who are the perpetrators of GBV as well as other issues.
Haytham Ali Ababneh, an IFH counselor who meets with the men one-on-one in the camp, says the reasons for GBV are many and varied; everything from having experienced torture themselves while back in Syria, to the lack of purpose they’re experiencing while sitting in the camp unemployed.Ababneh says during the counseling sessions he tries to provide the men with strategies to help them deal more positively with their wives and children.
In addition to activities and counseling sessions for men, the IFH is addressing protection issues especially with regards to prevention and response to physical and sexual violence against women and early marriage through the work it's doing with the Syrian Protection Committees.

Reproductive Health

The project also focuses on women of reproductive health age by providing them with information and counseling in regards to reproductive health, family planning and the use of contraceptives.Many of the refugees who are screened lack awareness about reproductive health and family planning.

Reproductive Health Workshop Za'atari Camp Oct 10, 2012

The IFH has dispatched 14 full time staff to the three areas it is working in including six psychologists, four health educators, three case managers and one field manager.

IFH Director Dr. Manal Tahtamouni says the main goal is to improve the reproductive health status of the Syrian refugees with a special focus on prevention and response to violence against women:
“GBV is a widespread health problem that not only affects day-to-day family relations," explained Tahtamouni, but it can have a dramatic impact on the future reproductive health of women."

Awareness Raising Sessions

The IFH is also providing awareness raising sessions for women with female adolescent daughters in order to provide the mothers with information on the negative impact on adolescent health of early marriage.
Outreach Project Manager Randa Ruhi describes the impact one of the awareness raising sessions had an 18-year old Syrian woman who said she was married at the age of 15 in Syria and is now pregnant with her second child:

“One particular women she came to us," explained Ruhi, "and she said 'please, first of all I would like to share that the only thing that I regret in my life after attending these sessions was that I got married at an early age…I was still a child…I did not really enjoy my childhood, suddenly I became a housewife, suddenly I became a mother, I had huge responsibilities and I still wanted to play with the children and the kids in the street…I lost my childhood.'"

IFH Health Educator Hiba Al-Lamoush Nov 28, 2012

Obviously the work is plentiful and even more needs to be done. IFH Project Coordinator Rawand Samara says she hopes funding for the important project will be extended as she is already seeing results.

There are so many women and girls who say that yes, this is working, we are now more capable of handling this,” remarked Samara.  “Also the fathers and the way they treat them it’s different now, because women are aware of their rights, they’re aware of do’s and don'ts when it comes to family, they appreciate themselves more.”

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