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you want to see in the world«
  

Photo Credit / Giovanna Del Sarto

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Projects

Athena
Centre
Chios

Halcyon Days
Project
Athens

Women
only bus
Chios

Our mission is to provide safety, support and hope for women fleeing conflict, violence and persecution through our projects – the Athena Centre for Women on the Aegean Island of Chios, and the Halcyon Days Project in Athens.

The Athena Centre for Women, which opened in July 2016, was the first women-only space outside of official camp structures in Greece. Since opening we have logged almost 18,000 + entries.

Our projects have been developed to deliver a dynamic response to the biggest humanitarian crisis since World War 2.

Project
Milestones

2015

Action for Women founded

2016

Our first centre in Chios opened

2017

10,000 women supported

2018

Our second centre in Athens opened

2020

Pomegranate
Project

Athena Centre for Women
Chios

The Athena Centre for Women on the island of Chios was the first exclusively female space outside the refugee camps in Greece. What started out as a simple home for them to relax and feel safe away from the stress of camp life, was organically shaped by the women themselves into a network nerve centre on the island to provide legal, psychological and medical support – within a safe sanctuary. We have hosted experts leading seminars on topics such as sexual health, contraception, feminine hygiene and safety.
There was a room known fondly by the women of the camps as the ‘Raha’ (‘relaxation’ in Arabic), where women could socialise, knit, play music and form connections over simple refreshments. We’ve also provided services such as language and self-defense classes, art therapy, yoga, and seminars on personal health and well-being.

A kitchen allowed the women to cook and enjoy meals together on special occasions, such as breaking the fast during Ramadam.

We also offered access to a private shower and a small office for personal conversations and legal or psychological support.

For four years, the Athena Centre relied on the power of civil society and the solidarity of over 80+ female volunteers to establish itself as a safe haven for girls over 11 years old, living in the chaotic and often unsafe camps on the island of Chios where we’ve dedicated ourselves to working with over 19 000+ women in providing a sense of normalcy, safety, and opportunity for what is, perhaps the most vulnerable point in their lives.

We had to make the most difficult decision to close its doors in December 2019 due to limited resources, in order to focus on the hundreds of women who are facing destitution and are therefore at heightened risk of gender based violence in Athens – from trafficking to little to no opportunities for dignified work. Many women – including our participants at the Athena Centre, experience exploitation and are forced to engage in non-consensual sex, in exchange for basic survival needs such as housing and money for food.  

The walls of this little Centre have heard way too many stories of abuse, violence, suffering and sheltered the vulnerable during fascist attacks. We believe that change only happens when we focus on a holistic programme, which both protects and empowers women, and break the vicious cycle of further harm and exclusion/deprivation. 

We will take away the memories of how we’ve cried, cooked, baked, learned, danced – and most importantly, laughed together. 

For more information of what we do in Athens, please check the Pomegranate Project.

Halcyon Days Project
Athens

The bonds that we’ve formed with the women we met in our Athena Centre on Chios does not end when they are finally allowed to leave the island. In summer 2018, we opened the Halcyon Days Project in Athens where we reinforced our mission to provide safety, support and hope to women fleeing persecution, conflict and violence. Participants of the Halcyon Days Project had access to non-formal English classes (in partnership with Action for Education), livelihoods development, legal and psycho-social support. It became a thriving community for 150 women daily. The need for a holistic program to support refugee women who experience gender based violence and respond appropriately to survivors is becoming increasingly urgent. Existing services for GBV survivors (including shelter, mental health and psychosocial, reproductive health and legal) are scattered throughout the city and often lack qualified female interpreters for refugee women. The complex urban fabric of the city and language barriers can create anxiety, stress, re-traumatisation as survivors are forced to re-tell their story, and ultimately, result in reduced access to appropriate care. 

With the election of a new centre-right government in July 2019, extreme anti-immigration measures have been deployed starting with the closure of multiple squatted housing projects in urban Athens, limiting access to public health services, decongestion of the islands – just to name a few, and with the Greek Parliament implementing detention centres, this is causing women to go underground and resorting more to traffickers. Those who are already in Greece are facing destitution with evictions from the ESTIA program, making them vulnerable to exploitation and are therefore at heightened risk of GBV. This includes the risk of trafficking, and with little to no opportunities for dignified work, many women are forced to engage survival sex, in exchange for basic needs such as housing and money for food. 

We have always prided ourselves in being independent to respond to dynamic changes in the challenging operational environment in an agile manner. This motivation gave birth to the Pomegranate Project – a first of its kind programme run with and for women offering a holistic protection and empowerment model to enable recovery and healing for women at risk and survivors of gender-based violence, which includes livelihoods and learning for meaningful integration within Greek society.

Women only bus
Chios

Following the closure of Souda camp in July 2017, the refugees were transferred to Vial, located over seven kilometers outside central Chios. The camp has experienced tremendous overcrowding and the limited bus service provided was always overwhelmed with demand. Women and children bear the brunt and stress as it was almost impossible and we saw attendance at our Athena Centre for Women drop. We received consistent reports of their failed attempts to gain access to essential services in the city centre, being pushed aside and even being sexually harassed.

The answer was as simple as a bus journey – transportation, a daily essential which many of us take for granted. We launched a twice-daily all-women bus services, which allowed women and girls to safely, comfortably and reliably access the medical, legal, psychosocial services provided at our Athena Centre for Women and the city’s amenities, six days a week, The bus became a critically important component of our work on Chios.