The EuroMed Feminist Initiative organized a training on the “Provision of Legal and Psychosocial Support to Women Survivors of Gender-Based Violence” of a program funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation (SIDA). The training was held from the 7th to the 11th of October 2019 in Beirut. It gathered 20 Syrian participants, from service providers, caseworkers, lawyers and volunteers working with local communities, refugees and internal displaced persons.
In a context where exacerbated, sexual violence is used as a deliberate military strategy, women are systematically subject to multiple gender-based discriminations. Due to the culture of victim-blaming, survivors are shamed and stigmatized and face rejection from society, making it harder for women to be reintegrated in their communities. The need for gender-sensitive legal and psychosocial support is increasing and survivors of GBV are in dire need of support using a survivor-centered approach.
Ms. Aroua Bouzid, a clinical psychologist and family psychotherapist working in Tunisia, conducted the first day of training. Ms. Bouzid is active in the Tunisian civil society; she is especially involved in organizations working with women, such as the Association of Tunisian Women for Research and Development. She’s also in charge of trainings and external communication for the “Psychologues Du Monde” an NGO which provides psychological support in crises areas. Ms. Bouzid gave the participants an overview of the different contexts and types of violence against women, along with the psychological and social consequences of violence on the survivors. She then introduced the comprehensive law to combat VAW in Tunisia. She also discussed the use of technical tools and assisted the participants in developing an action plan for the support of survivors. Additionally, the service providers were introduced to self-care techniques aimed at preventing burnout which is a very common phenomenon in their profession.
The second day was conducted by Dr. Maja Mamula, Women's Room Coordinator and a psychologist, feminist, activist, lecturer, trainer, researcher and counselor with more than 25 years of experience in the field of sexual violence. She tackled sexual violence and violence against women in war and post-war situations, before introducing the symptoms, phases, and treatment of trauma resulting from sexual violence. Finally, Ms. Mamula gave examples of laws in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, walked the participants through the creation of a safe space, and elaborated on the role of community in identifying, recognizing, and naming sexual violence.
The third and fourth days of the training were conducted by Ms. Eva Abou Halaweh, the co-founder and current Executive Director of the Jordanian CSO Mizan for Law. Ms. Abou Halaweh is a lawyer since 1997 and human rights activist for more than 25 years. She introduced the legal aspect of PSS, explaining the concept of legal aid and the importance of services provided by WR and HR organizations. She delved into the international dimension of PSS, describing how to use international human rights conventions before the courts, and going over useful international tools and mechanisms for the support of the survivors such as strategic litigation. Finally, she presented the monitoring mechanisms for the implementation of Human Rights Conventions concerned with accountability and international justice.
The last day was dedicated to ABAAD – Resource Center for Gender Equality, an accredited ECOSOC organization that conceives gender equality as an essential condition to sustainable social and economic development in the MENA region. In order to end gender-based violence, ABAAD adopts a holistic approach to provide protection and support services to GBV survivors/right holders during times of peace, war and disasters. Mr. Hani Al Salhani started by presenting the organization and gave an overview of “Jina Al Dar”, a program that was selected among the 10 best innovative initiatives worldwide to further sustainable development goals. Ms. Jihane Isseid then gave a historical overview of the various types of shelters and went on to elaborate about the standard operation, ethical guidelines, code of conduct and PSS programming inside shelters.
During this five-day training, the participants were provided with an interactive space for exchanging knowledge and lessons learned from good practices and global experiences. The training gave a comprehensive overview of psychosocial and legal support to survivors of violence, from the definition of its root causes to the different types of violence. It also covered the response to violence and the protection of women subjected to GBV, notably through shelters and community-based approaches. This training gave interesting examples of resilience and an overall glimpse of hope for Syria, which is still in the grip of violence and struggling to recover from the conflict.