“I would go to my parents, but they would give me back to my abusive husband.”
This is what Semira, 25, from Sudan, remembers from her marriage. For millions of women around the world, gender-based violence is an ugly daily reality.
With EU humanitarian funding, the United Nations Population Fund (UNPFA) has set up centers that provide shelter and support for girls and women like Semira, including those fleeing conflict in other parts of Sudan.
Semira, 25, has been married for 12 years and had her first child when she was 14.
Semira and her family fled armed clashes in her hometown in East Jebel Marra in 2020 and have been living in Otash IDP camp ever since.
Protecting 5 children and surviving the lack of livelihood were not Semira’s only concerns. She spent long nights dreaming with her eyes wide open of life in a better place, free from the anguish of her husband’s beatings. Semira often woke up to her pain and despair and she worried about what her husband might do to her in the morning.
One day, Semira’s friend came to see her and noticed that her foot was burned. Semira burst into tears, telling her friend how her husband abused her to the point of burning her foot with cooking oil.
“The violence never stopped; I just got used to it”, she tells us.
The next day, Semira’s friend took her to the UNFPA Women’s Center in the camp, where Aisha, the Center’s social worker, recognized the signs of Semira’s trauma and cornered her. confidential file supported by UNFPA in Nyala hospital for treatment.
After receiving immediate treatment for her foot, Semira and her assigned social worker developed a case management plan that included weekly follow-up sessions over the next 3 months to help Semira recover from the trauma.
The Women’s Center is a safe space where women and girls can connect and access psychosocial support, advanced care referrals, dignity kits, outreach and recreational activities. The center is managed by a Women’s Committee made up of women and girls from the community who participate in the planning and programming of the activities.
“Here, women and girls have tea while sharing their stories freely. I felt encouraged to visit the place often for support and my psychological well-being,” says Semira.
“For thousands of women and girls in Sudan, hope is the only thing they have left. We are here to turn that hope into a reality where they can thrive in a safe environment, fulfill their dreams and unleash their potential,” says Mohamed Lemine, UNFPA Representative in Sudan.
Semira felt motivated to participate in the vocational training activities. These life skills activities improve women’s resilience, mitigate the risks of gender-based violence and ensure immediate needs are met.
She trained in soap making and soon after began training other women at the camp and referring them to the Women’s Centre. Semira could buy soap making materials and start a small business in the Otash field.
Semira is one of 2.7 million women and girls in Sudan in need of gender-based violence protection, mitigation and response services.
In 2021, EU humanitarian funding enabled UNFPA to set up 5 women’s centers in Gedaref, South Darfur and North Darfur and reach over 26,000 of the most vulnerable women and girls with quality coordinated protection services.
UNFPA story and photos.
Publication date: 11/25/2022