Why Breaking Down Gender Stereotypes Is Necessary To Foster Trauma-Relief In A Refugee Community

Falah, a University of Jordan graduate, with a diploma in marketing, discusses his experiences participating in the Gender-Based Violence, and Emotional Intelligence courses offered at CRP. 

Originally from Syria, Falah has been taking part in CRP courses and events for the last five years. Most recently, he completed the Gender-Based Violence (GBV) and Emotional Intelligence courses offered at CRP’s El Hashemi center. When asked how he felt after completing both courses, Falah stated this:

It changed my way of thinking. I know more about how to deal with psychological stress in a healthier way. It has been 10 years since I left Syria, but to this day I still feel like it happened yesterday. I’m still living the same trauma. But, through the years I have learned how to deal with this.”

Falah’s words speak volumes to the necessity and validity of CRP’s mission. CRP aims to provide vulnerable community members with access to basic necessities, so that they have a foundation upon which they can build resilience, and heal from trauma. Both the GBV and Emotional Intelligence programs enable participants to discuss experiences they may find difficult to express elsewhere. It is a safe space that promotes dialogue. The goal is not only to offer trauma-relief, but also to find ways to cope with the stresses of displacement.

GBV is an umbrella term for any non-consensual action done to a person based on power-imbalances between men and women, men and men, or women and women. Approximately, 1 in 3 women will experience sexual or physical violence in their lifetime. The threat of GBV significantly increases during periods of conflict and displacement, and is mostly arbitrary and unsystematic. It is evidenced to be the result of the breakdown of community support systems, social norms, and laws. 

Research scholar Ruth Wells, surveyed the experiences of 15,720 refugees living in Jordan, and the results were somewhat harrowing. The research found that whilst 59% of women were experiencing sexual harassment, 48% of respondents emphasised increasing family conflict, and domestic violence. Wells’ report highlighted that displacement stress, unsurprisingly, led to an increase in feelings of anger and frustration, having a damaging effect on families and the wider refugee community. It is exactly these issues that CRP’s programs address. 

The CRP program coordinators for both the GBV and Emotional Intelligence courses, discussed the programs and their benefits in more detail. The GBV program aims to raise awareness about gender equality, on the individual level, for both men and women. The goal is to improve the capacity of community leaders to enable them to take action and affect change. Emphasised was the fact that the course not only focuses on rejecting violence, but also on increasing the awareness among participants of the relationship between men and women, and the cultural norms that affect them. The goal is to improve the way they interact with each other at both the family and community level. One coordinator, in reference to this, recalls an experience with multiple participants:

“Many share examples of how they used to view women’s role in society and how their perspective has changed after attending a few sessions in the program.”

The Emotional Intelligence program, more specifically, works to help participants better understand themselves and others. It aims to increase feelings of sympathy among people, and help them achieve success in all areas of their lives. After one particular lecture, a participant opened up about his experiences in making snap judgements and getting angry quickly. The program had, for this man, helped him to become more aware of his emotions and better control his anger. 

As previously mentioned, Falah, a University of Jordan graduate, who left Syria 10 years ago, has been participating in CRP programs for the last 5 years. Falah says that the biggest take away from both the Emotional Intelligence and GBV program, has been an increase in his social skills. He states that he now knows how to communicate with people in the right way, more specifically, to remain positive no matter the situation or circumstance:

“Every situation I come across in my life I think back to the rules I learned during the programs. It made me a more positive person. It taught me to take a pause before an action, and think about it thoroughly.”

During his interview, Falah mentioned that he had met lots of people from different nationalities and backgrounds whilst completing the courses. He also met a lot of people on social media as a result of CRP’s programs currently running online, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Displacement does not just involve the movement of an individual or household, it also encompasses a movement away from friends, wider family, and community. The result of this is a loss of support systems and social norms. This can lead to depression and frustration which can increase family conflict, and domestic violence.  CRP’s programs not only address specific issues, but also offer a space for new friendships and communities to form. These social bonds are imperative to increasing wellbeing in a refugee community. Falah finished his interview stating that he couldn’t wait until COVID-19 settles down so that he can meet his new friends face to face, and perhaps invite them over for dinner.

CRP’s programming is currently running online due to the pandemic. Now that Jordan has begun to vaccinate its refugee population, we will hopefully be able to return to our normal programming soon. To read more about CRP’s programs please visit here. If you would like to help CRP continue to deliver courses such as the GBV and Emotional Intelligence program, you can donate here!

Eliza Ward, Marketing and Communications team. 

Collateral Repair Project, 2021.