Art and craft brings refugee women closer to Greeks“This is a big day for me, to see such warmth from Greek women towards us,” the words coming from a refugee woman who wishes to remain anonymous and lives at Volos mainland site.*
It was a special day for the women who organized the arts and crafts exhibition with the help of DRC education, protection and site management support teams, late October. The teams followed the request made by the women participants at the Women’s Safe Space (WSS).
A Women’s Safe Space is a formal or informal place where women and girls feel physically and emotionally safe. It is an inviting space where women feel comfortable and enjoy the freedom to express themselves without the fear of judgment or harm, away from any kind of trauma, stress, or abuse.
In response to the changing context of the European refugee and migration situation and the build-up of refugees in mainland Greece, DRC with the support of "European Commission's Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid department” (ECHO), has set up women safe spaces (WSS) in several sites, as part of the protection services’ provision.
In those safe spaces, a balance between structured activities, services, and times to socialize is maintained. As members of the WSS, women can participate in creative workshops, sports, information sessions, as well as various activities suggested by the members. Sometimes, their activities bridge refugees with local communities.
This was the case with refugee women attending a crochet and crafts workshop who wanted to showcase their skills in arts and crafts, by presenting handmade gifts of gratitude to the local community of Volos. Their goal was to pay tribute to the Greek society for the shelter they have provided. Their dedication to this project was evident in each stage, since they continuously provided their inputs, during the planning and the setting up of the exhibition.
“It means a lot to me personally, to get to meet and know Greeks,” said one of the beneficiaries at the exhibition. Women from different professional backgrounds, ages and nationalities as well as 40 locals, came together to celebrate at the community tent in Volos refugee site. The local women also brought gifts such as traditional desserts and bracelets to the female refugees.
“Each guest was asked to choose a souvenir from the hand-made pieces,” Lava, DRC protection trainee explains. “When they would pick up a piece, we encouraged short conversations between the refugee women and their foreign guests, to break the ice. Exchanging small gifts brought the women closer,” she adds.
“The day proved to be quite emotional. There were moments of tears, laughs and excitement! The ladies could not be prouder of their work! So are we and we believe that this project is an invaluable step towards integration,” Lava explains.
Women refugees head households, manage family issues and are responsible for the well-being of several dependents. When displaced, women may have no access to education or mentorship, facing the risk of being invisible to humanitarian aid. Traditionally responsible for domestic work and raising the children, refugee women may be overburdened and excluded from decision-making, due to gender norms. A safe space for women is the place where female refugees can have a space of their own and most importantly, spend time together.
*Note that the Volos site closed on November 10, 2017