Imagine waking up every morning in a makeshift tent with little to no access to essential services and resources necessary for physical and mental well-being, usually in terms of consumption goods. Freedom of movement prevented, and there are no legal documents—this is the every day situation of nearly 5,000 internally displaced people who now consider the Khazer camp a temporary home, half of whom are women who have lost everything due to varied circumstances.
Like Camp Duhok, so is Khazer, a combination of some of life's most challenging moments, particularly for women made to live with social marginalization and sexual and gender-based violence.
In Khazer Camp, 83% of the population experience restricted movement, over 40% of households lack civil documentation, and 84% report difficulty accessing healthcare.
But despite the obstacles, internally displaced women here are creating a new narrative of resilience and empowerment with the help of the Women Empowering Women through Conflict Prevention and Strategies Project.
This effort is supported by UN Women and implemented by Bring Hope Humanitarian Foundation in collaboration with JINDA.
Through this initiative, 90 internally displaced women received communication, negotiation, public speaking, and problem-solving training in July-December 2022.
The Women Empowering Women project aims to equip women with the necessary skills and tools to engage stakeholders positively, influence decision-making processes, and build bridges to broader community engagement.
An outcome of the project was the successful formation of Women's Councils, comprised of internally displaced women from the Sharya Camp,Duhok host community, and Khazer Camp.
The Women's Council now helps displaced women engage with stakeholders to take actions that can reduce violence against women in displaced camps in Iraq by engaging with different stakeholders in the region to take action to protect and support women in these camps.
The transformative power of this initiative became evident when the Khazer Camp Women's Council tackled protection and safety issues during food distribution.
Their pointed negotiation led to the introduction ofseparate distribution days for men and women, significantly reducing previously reported violent interactions.
This breakthrough set a precedent that fosters open discussions between the Women's Council and the Camp Management.
According to some Council members, being a part of the women's council has given them a sense of empowerment and helped increase their confidence, self-assurance, and mental well-being. Some say through networks built from the training, they can develop strength, collaborate, and advocate more broadly.
"I have learned to make decisions about my life, and no one should stop me from achieving my dreams. I have also learned to love the people by my side and to help them whenever possible." A member of the women's council said.
"When discussing topics related to what we learned in the training and the council, I worked to educate others and increase their awareness about the importance of discussing issues and challenges and working together towards positive outcomes to construct impact on our community."Another member expressed.
Since the start of the Women's Council, its members have fruitfully mediated conflicts within the camps, a testament to their growth and tangible proof of the transformation inspired by this effort.
And their journey from displaced residents to community advocates underscores the significance of programs like this one initiated by JINDA and BHHF.
From all measures, these women have confirmed that even in the most challenging conditions, they can become catalysts for positive change,advance a sense of oneness and advocate for their rights.
Their tale ignites a call for broader intervention to transform lives, instill hope, and carve better pathways for women'se mpowerment in different kinds of displacement centers.
The Women Empowering Women in Conflict Prevention and Response Strategies project is a twelve-month (April 2022 – May 2023) program funded by UN Women and implemented by JINDA organization (lead organization)and Bring Hope Humanitarian Foundation in Erbil / Khazir camp for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).
The project is realized with dual objectives: to build women's capacity, confidence, and willingness to participate in decision-making and public roles and to create coordination and better communication between women to support structural inclusion and create positive gender norms.