Women Refugee Route (WRR)’s mission is to start a positive cycle in which refugee women are considered not as simple recipients of services and support, but as actors of change for themselves and their communities. WRR projects aim at empowering refugee women to raise their own voice on the matters that concern them, and to support them to use their potential to the fullest with a view to generate creativity and change. Taking into account their mobility, WRR trains refugee women on advocacy and empowerment, and provide them with tools they can use anywhere to find employment and integrate in their host countries.
Among the thousands of refugees that have reached the shores of Italy and Greece in the past years are many women. However, refugee policy – be it at the local, national, European or international level – remains mostly gender-blind and the needs of women remain largely unaddressed. Most of the decisions that impact refugees in general, and refugee women in particular, are taken without them.
WRR’s ultimate goal is to empower refugee women to become self-advocates and raise their voices to respond to the decisions which directly concern and impact them.
However, advocacy is a language, and the spheres where policy is made are not readily accessible to everyone. Therefore, we aim to train refugee women on advocacy, by giving them the necessary knowledge to enter the advocacy world. With these trainings, WRR provides refugee women with tools to better integrate in host communities, become active actors of their host societies and bring about the change they want to see for refugee women, through taking part in policy-making.
Research shows that while the refugee crisis is tough on everyone, refugee women are made vulnerable among refugees: gender-based violence, lack of access to sexual and reproductive healthcare and to safe spaces are some of the many specific obstacles they face. The refugee protection system is in many ways gender- blind as it does not take this into account. Support for refugee women on the ground is scarce or hardly available. In the meantime, gender-blind policy and support programmes continue to be made, without refugee women being taken into account or being consulted.
In the last years, the refugee crisis has brought thousands of refugees to the shores of Italy and Greece. Tougher border controls and policy decisions (such as the EU- Turkey deal) has changed these two transit countries into host countries. The potential of many refugees is lost in a support system that is still built to cater to a temporary situation – and the system being gender-blind, refugee women are even more left behind.
When they remain inactive for months or years, refugee women miss the opportunity to use and expand their knowledge, skills and potential to further their professional life. In addition, it is estimated that half of refugee households in Greece are female headed: having relevant skills and the perspective of an income drive women away from poverty and therefore vulnerability to exploitation. Long-term solutions for integration and employability are therefore needed.
As a contribution to address these issues, WRR has built an advocacy training curriculum for refugee women and a training curriculum for volunteers working with refugee women. These trainings will contribute to providing solutions to employment and integration of refugee women, through
- Giving training in advocacy to provide refugee women with the tools to become advocates for themselves;
- Training volunteers and workers to become increasingly gender-sensitive when working with refugee women;
- Providing refugee women with tools that are transferrable to other countries – knowledge on universal human rights, women’s rights, refugee rights, storytelling tools, and advocacy skills (such as stakeholder analysis, community building, strategy making) being easily transferable from one context to another;
- Offering adequate support to refugee women, that takes into account their mobility and the uncertainty of their situation, will still offering them long-term solutions for employability and integration.
At Women Refugee Route, we believe that:
- Human rights should be universally accessible and realised;
- Refugee protection systems should support anyone in need of protection against persecution and violence, while being gender-sensitive;
- There is a need for refugee women to get empowered to raise their voice, and get involved in the decision-making processes that concern them directly;
- New technologies have a true potential to address social issues and provide refugees with the right information.