Amidst the situation of refugees overflowing the camps at Dadaab and reports that sexual and gender-based violence has been on the rise, it is good to know that a program like the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) run “Safe Haven” exists. The goal of this program is to create a safe space for women and girls in the Dadaab camps who have become victims of violence or undue societal/familial pressures, like rape and early marriages. In traditional Somali culture women are promised to their husbands when the women are still just teenagers, usually around 15, in exchange for a dowry. In the setting of a refugee camp Somali men from other countries come in and offer to pay the dowry for girls they do not know. The financial constraints of living in a refugee camps make the offer of marrying a daughter off to a stranger in exchange for a cash dowry too enticing for some families.

Besides its role in creating a safe space for these women and girls, the program also works to help women find sustainable ways out of their situations. It does so by offering counseling, literacy classes and income-generation programs. Some of these latter programs have become quite successful and popular among the camps with the products being made selling out as quickly as they can be place on the shelf.

These are the types of efforts that define what is meant by disaster response and development. Working through LWF, we are not just responding to the immediate and necessary needs of refugees but also to the long-term, sustainable solutions that will help them as they move forward into a new definition of normalicy post-disaster.

For the full-story, read the LWF feature “A Life Free from Violence – The Safe Haven in Dadaab”.

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