Safe spaces for displaced women and girls
Philippines / Freedom Stories / 19 oct 2017
In Mindanao, The Philippines, fighting continues to rage between government forces and armed groups. This violence has displaced hundreds of thousands of Filipinos across Mindanao and nearly 360,000 of these displaced people are in Marawi where fighting is currently concentrated. It is estimated that currently 98% of the total population of Marawi City have been displaced from their homes and sought shelter in evacuation centres or with relatives. In conflict and disaster settings across the world, the risks for women and girls increase dramatically. Evacuation centres and humanitarian shelters are often crowded, lacking privacy and security. Their lack of infrastructure can mean women’s health needs are not met, such as reproductive health care, antenatal services or menstrual hygiene supplies. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has created women-friendly spaces which are safe places for women and girls displaced by the violence to go to share experiences and gain skills and information. One of these safe spaces is in Pawak, a village five kilometres from the city of Marawi.
Facilitators in the women-friendly spaces act as mentors and coordinators for the displaced women and girls. They conduct information sessions about protections available to women and can refer them to support services including psychosocial support, counselling and health services. They also provide support and referrals to survivors of gender-based violence. Ms. Sani is a facilitator, who herself fled her home in May when fighting erupted, fearing for her family’s safety. She lost her home and livelihood – having to abandon the store her family owned. Becoming a facilitator has provided Ms. Sani with a renewed sense of purpose. ‘Being a facilitator has reduced my stress’, she said. ‘It makes me happy to help my fellow displaced people learn about women’s rights, violence against women and trafficking.'
Ms. Sani is one of 200 UNFPA-trained facilitators working in 10 women-friendly spaces. The safe spaces are spread across municipalities with the highest concentrations of displaced people. The UNFPA is a UN agency working to ensure safe childbirth, wanted pregnancy, and fulfilling young people’s potential.