Women's Empowerment and Leadership Development for Democratisation
Saira*, a twenty-four-year old refugee at the Warvin Foundation for Women’s Issues Erbil shelter, found the WELDD project to be a pivotal force in her life.
The WELDD project, along with WARVIN Foundation for Women’s issues, aimed to strengthen the capacity of feminist leaders to protect survivors of gender-based violence. The WARVIN project, which aimed to strengthen the capacity of women’s rights advocates and anti-GBV service providers to protect survivors of gender-based violence in public shelters, gave Saira* new contact to feminist leaders. She was part of a focus group held by WARVIN that looked at the situation of survivors of gender-based violence to get their suggestions and insights about the quality of shelters, and ideas for improvement. This focus group involved a briefing about women’s rights, gender-based violence and what standards in running the shelters to ensure the safety and recovery of GBV survivors can be expected from these shelters. While Saira* is reluctant to share the full detail of her story, she freely admits that the situation she was in had driven her to a deep depression. “I was living a desperate life in the shelter,” she says. “I thought returning to a normal life now was out of my reach, something that simply wasn’t in the cards for me.”
The WELDD project, thankfully, successfully changed her tune. The workshop’s aims at an innate empowerment and the realization that with the right tools, women are capable of taking charge; this made Saira* see that hope was, in fact, possible.
“As a result of the project, I have a newfound confidence, a desire to dream bigger. I can see how there are so many people out there so willing to help, to support, and to solve problems like mine.”
The most significant change that has resulted from the project is Saira’s* decision to go out there and find a job, to rebuild her place in her community with the inner strength she has had all along. “I have made this decision—I am going to find employment, make my own salary and help my children finish their education.”
“I do not want the same story repeating with my children. I am going to raise them in a way that ensures that they won’t go through what I did, so they will know the difference between right and wrong, and be afforded a life far more successful than mine—I am, in this way, determined to contribute to a better future for my society, but most importantly, for my family.”
Saira* has realized, thanks to this project, that she is worth something, and that it is not impossible for her to go out and live a normal life. “I have learned that even though there might be difficulties in the beginning, I have the support of all these people who are so willing to help. With their guidance and care I have seen a new light in my life, and with this new light, I am making changes I had never known were possible.”
Saira* is now working as a house-keeper in Duhok, working earnestly to afford her children good schools. Now that she is financially independent she feels much safer and freer from her family’s tight grip. “I urge more NGO support, for women like myself, and for the sake of future generations. I have decided to offer my life to my children.”
“WARVIN and WELDD taught me that there is hope in the world.”
*Name changed for the sake of privacy.