Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Protecting Women and Children

Today we worked with the leaders of the teachers associations to introduce them to the American Refugee Committee's child-friendly spaces and explain the purpose and intent of the program.

There were a lot of questions and concerns about the lack of formal education and vocational training after the earthquake. We explained that we were intending to set up structures that could provide some immediate support to children but that we did not want to be in competition with the formal education system. The hope is that schools will be rebuilt and running again soon.

Everybody was happy to work with us and excited to get the activities started. They were tasked with going back to their communities to ensure parents were informed about the activities.

We also decided where to build three child-friendly spaces. We are building them in central locations to help bring the communities together to mobilize around major concerns -- food, water, shelter, and sanitation. We had planned to build five spaces (one in each zone in the settlement), but land is hard to come by. People are quickly building their temporary shelters in every available space.

In the coming weeks, I want to focus more on women's protection issues and see what we can do to prevent sexual violence. Gangs move around in the evening and are causing issues for those that are easily exposed, which is most of the population. One of the most alarming things for me continues to be women having to bathe in the open or in the evenings. It is dangerous for them when they are outside or on the streets.

There are many women-headed households in the settlements we are working in. There is a great need to tells them about available services and what to do if something does happen. I am also learning that the stress these women are under is immense. They need basic support and assistance, which they haven't been able to get so far.

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