The Athena Centre for Women

Latest figures show that 30% of the refugee population on Chios are women, aged 15 years or over. Currently, there are only volunteer-led social projects that exist on Chios and are aimed at mothers with babies, or provide schooling for children. There are currently no facilities specifically catering to the needs of the women on the island. They have no safe place to gather, to take a break from camp life and to just be themselves.

Across all cultures, women are the glue holding family units together. Single women of all ages brave discrimination and travel alone. Harsh conditions of the camps expose them to sexual harassment and attacks. This particular group of refugees deserve specialist support as they live in the camps and navigate their way through a complex and frustrating situation.

Having been on the island since the implementation of the EU-Turkey deal on 20th March 2016 where the refugee population has been stuck in a state of limbo, Our founder met many refugee women in the camps and through the establishment of trust and formation of strong relationships, gathered in depth feedback about issues they are facing as well as longer term repercussions for women’s rights.

Action From Switzerland is going to change that.

We are creating a designated women’s centre – a hub from where specific needs of the women refugee population of Chios will be addressed.

We thank the Be Aware and Share team for their creative input.

Our vision for this centre revolves around the concept of creating a “safe space” which will offer women the opportunity to enrich their lives, recover their sense of identity which has been lost during the crisis. It will be done through a series of meaningful and potentially income-generating educational programmes and activities – like language courses and possibly develop skills and pick up new hobbies with crafts, yoga and meditation.

In addition, information sessions on feminine hygiene, female health issues and contraception will be held with the aim to build and increase their knowledge and skills to empower them with information and promote their participation in decisions that affect their lives.

The centre will be stocked with feminine hygiene products and contraception, and has a private shower where the women can shower in peace without worrying about being followed. They feel so unsafe that they tend to go to the bathroom in pairs. Let alone take a shower in peace.

These are simple things that many take for granted, but which will make a wealth of difference to the women in the camps. For the women, domestic violence has become normalised. Due to the trauma they’ve experienced fleeing war, violence tends to be an outlet. Report of sexual harassment and sexual violence are also on the rise which is a cause for concern.

Lack of security for many women sleeping in these tents

By providing a safe space, we will also be able to offer emotional care and support, which in turn will help us offer specific and tailored provision for those who have been a victim of Sexual Gender Based Violence.

Many women have to share big rub-halls where privacy is non-existent

Everything within the centre is focused on improving the mental and physical well-being of the female refugees.

We have high hopes for the women’s centre, and strongly believe that it is going to be a great resource for the female refugee population. Providing a safe space will offer respite from the harsh conditions of camp life, and hopefully offer some entertainment and enjoyment in an otherwise difficult situation.

Simply put: we could not have created this women’s centre without your help. Action From Switzerland is a volunteer-run non-profit, and we need donations to keep us operating. Please consider supporting us, more information on where your donations are spent can be found our donations page. And be sure to check back from time to time to see the progress as we open and operate our women’s centre.

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