Women’s Learning Partnership is conducting capacity building workshops in Lebanon with refugee women of diverse ages and educational levels as part of the Empowering Syrian Refugee Women for a Better Future project. The project addresses the staggering humanitarian crisis that has forced 4.5 million registered Syrian refugees to flee in Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey, among other countries. Three local WLP partner organizations—the Collective for Research and Training on Development-Action (CRTD-A) of Lebanon, the Sisterhood is Global Institute (SIGI-J) of Jordan, and the Foundation for the Support of Women’s Work (FSWW) of Turkey—are designing and facilitating these capacity building workshops. In addition to training activists, the Empowering Syrian Refugee project aims to build local organizations’ capacity to address the needs of refugees and facilitate their access to services.
So far, CRTD-A has organized workshops with three different cohorts of refugee women. The workshops feature sessions from WLP’s training manuals Leading to Choices, Beyond Equality, Victories over Violence, Leading to Compassion, and Leading to a Culture of Democracy (official publication forthcoming).
The workshops use WLP’s inclusive leadership model to engage participants in activities that challenge the identity of “refugee,” helping them to transition from a state of trauma to a state of empowerment and engagement with their communities. Sessions on consensus building, self-reliance, mutual respect, democratic values, and peacebuilding enable women to see themselves as capable agents of change.
April 2017: Defining Human Rights and Transcending Trauma
CRTD-A organized a follow-up workshop on April 14 and 15 for the participants of the March workshop. The same facilitation team returned to guide attendees through topics of human rights and healing.
The workshop opened with exercises to practice critical communication skills necessary for activists, like the delivery of complex messages and collaboration with those who hold different perspectives. Another session reviewed foundational concepts of human rights and how they applied to the women’s daily lives. From there, participants were able to shift the discussion on human rights to a broader, global scale.
Participants also partook in an “unsent letter” exercise in which they wrote to a person who had inflicted pain upon them. In this safe environment, participants could acknowledge and process the trauma they had experienced as refugees. They reported that the team of facilitators was supportive, respectful, and careful to ensure the women could freely express themselves.
Empowering Women Refugees: The Way Forward
WLP’s Empowering Syrian Refugee Women for a Better Future project will continue to build the capacities of displaced women to engage with their host communities, advocate for human rights, and transcend the identity of “refugee” and the cycle of victimhood. CRTD-A staff has planned follow-up “refresher” workshops and evaluation trainings with each of the cohorts in fall 2017. They also will continue to share their experiences, knowledge, and lessons learned with WLP partners in Jordan and Turkey that are implementing the project with refugee communities in those countries. Through this collaboration, displaced Syrian women will continue to benefit from tools and resources that help them claim their rights.