Dina Sidhva (The University of the West of Scotland, Paisley, UK)
Co-author: Dr George Palattiyil, The University of Edinburgh
Topic: Against All Odds: Intersectional Identities and Voices of Syrian Refugee Women in Jordan experiencing Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) problems and Gender-based Violence (GBV)
Background: Over the past decade, Jordan has experienced a huge influx of Syrian refugees who fled the civil war in their country, most of whom were women. The incomparable and rapid spread of COVID-19 resulted in dramatic global political and social turmoil, especially among forcibly displaced women who are already disproportionately affected and living in low to middle-income countries of the global south. This presentation focuses on the lives of Syrian female asylum seekers, who face multiple, intersectional challenges related to their SRH rights and/or have experienced heightened gender-based violence (GBV) as they were forced to stay at home with their perpetrators.
Methods: In-depth qualitative interviews were carried out with 40 female refugees who had faced gender-based based violence and/or were living with varied SRH issues, all underpinned by robust ethical considerations.
Findings: The women’s lives throw light on the added challenges experienced as a direct result of displacement, stigma and discrimination. Their lives reflected how their SRH needs were heightened by varied social (such as disruption of family and social structures, gender imbalances between men and women) and structural (such as violence and poverty) vulnerabilities and how this in turn impacted their mental and physical well-being. Equally, other refugees’ lives threw light on the inhumane gender-based violence (including physical, verbal and sexual) and the unequivocal personal and structural inequalities experienced by them. Their voices reflected the pervasive issues that they face in the face of precarity, fragility and daily challenges.
Conclusion and Implications for Social Work: It is a moral imperative that the voices and experiences of refugee women need to be prioritised while designing SRH and GBV programmes that will enable, empower and ultimately provide healing and health for refugees in humanitarian settings. Social workers, service providers and policymakers have a crucial role in enabling women’s health, and freedom from violence and amplifying their voices, such that they are able to albeit in a small, yet significant incremental manner begin to move from vulnerability to strength.