War Child: protecting children by empowering women

The children are at the heart of War Child’s mission. Their programme works to protect vulnerable Syrian and Jordanian children from abuse, exploitation and violence.

Debriefs and reflections at the end of each day, albeit emotional and thought-provoking, brought it home to me how important it is to work with all members of the family to ensure the safety and happiness of the children.  The positive parenting and psycho-social aspects are key to this.

Who knows how to be a parent in any situation? When you are handed that tiny bundle of life all you know is that you will protect and unconditionally love them no matter what.  There is no manual and a lot of the time you have to just do what your parents and their parents did for you.

All parts of the family need to be connected. When we add in the effects and trauma of war on the parents and the children, seeing and hearing things that neither you nor I could ever imagine. Having nothing left in life apart from each other. Their homes are destroyed, they have left friends, siblings and generations of family who are still trapped in Syria.

This is where the IKEA Foundation and War Child exceeded all my expectations. I had prepared to cry, be sad and only to feel empty and helpless. This was not the case. In both the host communities and the refugee camps, War Child runs positive parenting sessions, empowering women to believe in themselves, have confidence to approach and handle their husband’s anger and, sometimes, violence towards them and their children. Why? I hear you ask. The effects of war, losing family, friends and ultimately pride in themselves can mean that both parents struggle to hold together the family security they had in Syria. This can lead to violent behaviour towards family members because of the traumas they have experienced, and pressure placed on them.

The CBO Manager stated: “We found there were lots of vulnerable families; many women were suffering violence and with not enough income to send the children to school. It was common that only boys would go to school, not the girls. So, we thought we needed to do something for the women of Zarqa. We try to support as much as we can.”

Meeting the women 

The day we were in the CBO in Zarqa we met the mothers and caregivers who have been through (or are currently doing) the three-month positive parenting programme. The women showed courage and confidence to stand up and speak of their learnings and share stories from the programme. They talked about how they have grown in confidence due to the support of War Child and peer-to-peer support.

One mother said: “I am a divorced mother of two daughters, and there was a missing link between me and one of my daughters. We both attended War Child sessions and now I feel great because it has helped. The missing link is found, and we have a much better and closer relationship. After the divorce my daughter was not social. She had no friends and was shy and introverted. Now she is happy, positive and social. There has been a real change.”

We connected

When the group session was finished I connected with the mother. We shared commonalities and personal stories of single parenting and having to reach out to positive parenting support. This showed that two women from two completely different backgrounds and cultures can still have so much in common when it comes to loving and wanting the best for your children.  She said that after her 20-year marriage she felt free and had gone to university and studied to be a teacher. I was overwhelmed with how much she had been through and yet she tells me: “You are a strong, powerful woman. Bless you and your children.”

Empowerment

I left with sadness but also with a big smile in my heart to see this mother and all the others grow in confidence through the War Child programme.

Through the support of the IKEA Foundation, War Child can reach the many through trained field staff and facilitators who you can see want to make a difference. They administer their programmes in the most natural, inspiring and engaging way. Their groups have large waiting lists and all through word-of-mouth from success stories, enabling them to empower, grow and be sustainable for many years to come.