Unmasking violence: Syrian women paint stories

Oxfam partner ARDD-Legal Aid is a Jordan-based human rights organisation, which implements the Voice refugee-centred project. As part of the 16 days of activism campaign, ARDD-Legal Aid raised awareness about gender-based violence under the theme of ‘Unmasking Violence’.

A painting from one of the Syrian Voice workshops showing a man and a woman in black and white, the woman is crying.Violence is an everyday reality of life, we come across it in many forms, but not many people can see it or recognize it. Unfortunately, in times of crises, violence increases and so
does the need to raise awareness about it
.Knowledge is the first step towards protection and prevention, and that was our goal during the 16 days of activism campaign this year; to unmask a different side of violence that is casually mentioned but not addressed fully in daily life.

As preparation for the campaign, the Voice team, along with Oxfam-GB and Action Aid held a two day activity for Syrian women in Za’atri Camp. Over the two days, over 30 women and girls transformed their feelings about violence into paintings on tiles; representing things they have experienced or witnessed. The same activity was conducted in ARDD-Legal Aid’s community centre in the governorate of Zarqa, with both Syrian and Jordanian women joining the activity.

A woman painting in a Syrian Voice workshopARDD’s psycho-social support consultant was present in the workshops to provide guidance and support to the women, and to discuss the topic of gender-based violence (GBV). The women noted that the exercise helped them to express themselves and show that they are not helpless or forced to passively accept violence, but that they can convey messages and be part of this global campaign.

The drawings reflected different kinds of violence; that which is visible like harassment of women on the streets, and that which takes place behind closed doors like domestic violence. Some drawings also reflected the violence experienced by young girls who might be prohibited from going to school or even leaving the house hindering their access to education and other essential development needs.

One of the Syrian Voice workshop paintings showing a face with a hand over the mouth.

The paintings will be displayed in an art gallery and printed on postcards along with the messages they convey to generate awareness and showcase what Jordanian women and Syrian women alike experience.

The Syrian Voice citizen journalists are joining the campaign by writing stories about gender-based violence that will be posted on the Voice blog during the 16 Days. The stories written encompass many faces of violence, as for example, one story describes the military violence experienced by a family in Syria and the suffering that had resulted. Another story touches upon the concept of the cycle of violence, where a girl
who witnessed her mother being abused by her father marries a man who also abuses her; not only physically but economically as well by taking away all her savings.

Our experienced team of lawyers joined the campaign by holding sessions in Amman and Zarqa on GBV and the law. These sessions were open to both Syrian women refugees and Jordanians from the host community in order to raise their awareness on how they can ensure their rights as women in the community. Society is largely mute about the subject
of violence, but Voice, through this campaign, is stressing the importance of
raising awareness that violence does occur, even if we do not see it. Moreover, knowing the different types of violence and how it manifests in society will be the first step towards ending it.

Three images showing women painting in Za'atri camp.

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Author: Rana Nassar
Archive blog. Originally posted on Oxfam Policy & Practice.