What are women-safe spaces and why do they play a crucial role in empowering and protecting girls and women during a humanitarian crisis?
A woman-safe space is a place where women and girls come together to socialize and express themselves without harm or judgment. But it’s not just a place where women can meet; safe spaces also provide women with training and psychosocial support, improving their well-being and helping women in challenging situations to achieve their true potential.
In the context of a humanitarian crisis like the one in Northeast Nigeria, a woman-safe space serves an especially crucial function. Because of a long-running armed conflict between the terrorist organisation Boko Haram and the Nigerian government, the country is witnessing vast displacement and food insecurity.
International Medical Corps has been present in Nigeria since 2013. Along with other services, we run safe spaces for women and girls affected by the crisis.
Huawa has been coming to International Medical Corps’ women-friendly spaces in Maiduguri since 2017. When our team asked her why she comes to the center, she said,
“At the center, I saw women sewing hats, crocheting warm clothing and food covers, and making things from beads. After careful consideration, I decided to learn crocheting. I also started to take a language class to improve my English. Yesterday, I went to the market to buy some items. One of the sellers spoke to me in English, and I responded. That alone made me very proud of myself.”
Thanks to her new skills, Huawa can now generate a small income. The classes she took at the center opened Huawa’s eyes to the importance of education, especially for her daughters, so she decided to use part of her earnings and purchase school materials and uniforms for her children.
‘I wish I could have attended school myself,” she tells our team. “My opportunities in life would have been better. I will make sure my girls attend and stay in school.”
A woman-friendly space is a temporary haven in a world tainted by trauma and conflict. Helping women like Huawa fulfil her true potential is just one reason why they serve a crucial role in empowering and protecting women and girls.
International Medical Corps is able to support women like Huawa thanks to the generous support from European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO).