Sixteen Days of Activism against Gender Violence
Hand over the Mic: Baselah Mohammad Abdelrazak, Za’atari refugee camp
Community leader, advocate for girls’ rights and education, community mobilizer during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Date: Friday, December 4, 2020
Baselah Mohammad Abdelrazak, Community leader, advocate for girls’ rights and education, community mobilizer during the COVID-19 pandemic.
I have been a community leader for the past 2 years. During this pandemic, I am in constant contact with the women and girls in my community. We mainly use phone calls, WhatsApp messages and groups. I update them regularly on the preventive measures they need to follow in order to keep themselves and their families safe. I call or send a voice note to those who cannot read and the elderly. If a woman doesn’t have a mobile phone, I make sure a neighbor or a family member is checking on her and shares the information.
Gloves, masks, and physical distancing have become an essential part of our lives. I also reassure them, as some feel anxious about the lockdown and all the daily news about the coronavirus.
The objective is to remain safe and healthy during such challenging circumstances. However, to keep strong family bonds is also very important. We have seen that domestic violence, especially between husband and wife, has increased.
As such, I am usually very careful about women’s privacy, arranging for private conversations with those who need guidance and advice on how to deal with family issues and violence. I encourage them to bring any conflict within the household into a discussion as a family. I also advise them to take care of themselves to be able to look after their family. Their own wellbeing comes first!
As a community leader, even before COVID-19, I always offered women my help, especially teenagers. I try to be a good listener and share my advice on their daily challenges. Domestic violence and early marriages are issues we use to discuss a lot among the women of my community. Unfortunately, early marriage is a widespread phenomenon in our culture, which we are trying to change.
It is wrong and women should be aware of its negative consequences. I know from personal experience. Now I believe education is the most important thing for women and girls. If you want to keep your daughter safe, support her education. I personally would love to have the chance of continuing with my studies, even at this age.
If I look back to five years ago, I feel I did not exist. Now I have my own work, responsibilities, hopes and dreams.”
Baselah Mohammad Abdelrazak, 40, mother of six, is a Syrian refugee living in the Za’atari camp and the sole provider for her family. She is one of the few women elected as community leaders and she spared no effort to help other women and girls during the COVID-19 pandemic, sharing critical information on preventive measures and protection services. She is currently enrolled in the UN Women’s incentive-based volunteering programme, where she accessed livelihood and training opportunities to support her family and community during such challenging circumstances. This initiative is generously supported by the Governments of Australia, Canada, Finland, France, Iceland, Italy, Japan, and UN Women National Committees, as well as the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF).