For displaced women, safe spaces help recovery

A Safe Space for women and girls arriving in Kosti, White Nile, from Khartoum. Photo: UNFPA

Haiti, Somalia and Sudan | 2023 | CERF

Haiti, Somalia and Sudan. Miido (not her real name) has survived violence, both physical and emotional. Only in her thirties, conflict and drought ravaged her village in Somalia. Like many others, Miido sought refuge in the Gargaar 2 displacement camp.

The longest and most severe drought seen in Somalia in at least 40 years has affected millions and driven further displacement in the country.

Such displacement from their homes makes girls and women more vulnerable to gender-based violence. Indeed, humanitarians have recognized “a protracted and growing GBV emergency” in the Sahel and the Horn of Africa, driven by food insecurity, drought, and insecurity.

Miido didn’t expect to find a glimmer of hope there, but in fact she did, at the “One Stop” Center. The One-Stop Center operated by NoFYL, with the vital support of UNFPA, thanks to the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) was a refuge for women like Miido.

Here, she encountered compassion and support. They met her not with judgement or pity but with understanding and a commitment to help her rebuild. She worked with counsellors there and, for the first time, was able to be in a safe place where she could discuss what had happened.

Crucially, UNFPA’s financial support played a pivotal role for Miido. The cash assistance she received was a lifeline, allowing her to access essential resources and services. It provided a foundation of economic stability to help rebuild her life. Miido began working to help other women who had lived through similar experiences.

Access to, and quality of, GBV services is chronically poor and deeply inadequate across the Sahel and the Horn of Africa. Such services are extremely limited and stretched, making it very hard to cope with a significant increase in cases of GBV, caused by worsening food insecurity and other pressures..

Safe spaces for women around the world

In crisis contexts across the world, for women living through the aftermath of the worst conflicts and natural disasters, safe spaces offer an important resource – where healthcare, mental health support, or just a listening ear can be found.

In Kosti, White Nile, where over six million people have been displaced by conflict since April 2023, a safe space funded by UNCEF is providing psychosocial support and linking women to health care and further support.

In Haiti, the ‘Kathy Mangonès space’, supported by UNFPA and Oxfam, and funded by CERF in 2022, plays a similar role. “We support women and girls who have suffered violence in all forms,” says Louise Marie Naissant, the coordinator. “And we accompany women and girl survivors of violence to the hospital when it’s necessary,” explains Naissant. “These safe spaces are important,” she adds.

Original story: adapted from original articles by UNFPA Somalia, UNFPA Sudan, and UNFPA Haiti

More information about the CERF allocation for Somalia, for Sudan; and for Haiti