Helping Syrian women find their feet
June 3, 2013 by The IRC
|Nawal is an IRC psychologist who works with Syrian refugees in Jordan. Photo: Kete Shabani/IRC|
By Tim Jenner, development manager, International Rescue Committee UK
RAMTHA, Jordan - The International Rescue Committee health clinic is on the second floor of an anonymous building on a side street near the main mosque in Ramtha, a Jordanian town only two miles from the Syrian border. In a discreet room, behind the bustling reception, I meet Nawal, an IRC psychologist who works with Syrian refugees. The IRC provides counseling to refugees in three locations in northern Jordan. Many Syrian women and girls have been traumatized by violence, abuse or exploitation. Others need help in navigating their new lives as refugees. All find it therapeutic to share their experiences.
Nawal runs eight group-counseling sessions every week, each with at least ten women in attendance. She has a waiting list of dozens. "Most of the Syrian women I meet are distressed." explains Nawal, "with some having experienced violence at home or forced early marriage."
At the sessions, the women talk with each other about their families and their life before the war. Once safety and trust have been established, Nawal invites the women to open up and discuss the issues that have personally affected them. Many talk about the constant fear of bombings and gunfire, the threat of abuse and exploitation, and the agony of fleeing their homes.
A young Syrian woman called Sabreen* tells me how the counseling has helped her cope. "I met people that have bigger problems than I do. A lot of people have died. I tell myself that whatever problems I’m having are nothing compare to women whose husbands, sons and children have died in the war."
In later sessions, Nawal encourages women to think about their new lives inside Jordan, their new homes, their new neighbors, and their future. "I tell them 'You do not know when you will be able to return home, you have been here a long time already. You need to think of ways to make your life easier in Jordan,'" explains Nawal. "We help them find their feet, we help them regain control of their lives."
*Name has been changed for privacy