Combat Gender-Based Violence Affecting Syrian Refugees


Target: Kilian Kleinschmidt, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

Goal: Provide social services to accommodate and empower Syrian refugee women in Zaatari, Jordan.

The Syrian civil war has displaced millions of people and taken many lives. To escape violence, Syrian refugees have fled to refugee camps in neighboring Middle Eastern countries. The Zaatari camp in Jordan is one of the most populated refugee camps in the world. People struggle daily to have their basic needs met in the overcrowded camp dwellings. Women are particularly vulnerable because their patriarchal family codes afford them little protection from different types of violence that arise from underlying conditions that include political conflict and competition over limited resources.

International organizations primarily focus on relief in the form of resource distribution in Zaatari but fail to prioritize Syrian refugee women’s recovery from underreported human rights violations. As a result, Syrian women and girls continue to be abused after they migrate, an increased number of women resort to prostitution for survival in the Zaatari camp, and many families sell their female children as child brides, which robs young girls of having a choice in how they live the rest of their lives.

In order to protect the rights of Syrian refugee women, specialized agencies such as the United Nations Refugee Agency must implement plans that focus on empowering girls and women and helping them to heal from emotional trauma by providing culturally appropriate systems of counseling. Creating culturally appropriate systems would require that the agencies recruit more female clinicians and counselors to discuss sexual violence and reproductive health.

To make these services more widely available to meet the needs of all girls and women in the camps and to make them more sustainable over a long term, agencies should aim to place authority in the hands of the community by training Syrian women to become health and education promoters. With these services, young girls would be provided with female role models from their own community and the increased social support can encourage them to come forward and report sex abusers. Sign this petition to urge the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to create protective networks for women and girls.


Dear Kilian Kleinschmidt, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees,

The Syrian civil war continues to devastate the lives of millions of refugees. In order to adequately respond to the crisis, the United Nations Refugee Agency must implement plans to protect the population of refugee women and girls as they are highly vulnerable to gender-based violence in Zaatari, Jordan. While the distribution of aid is important for meeting the basic needs of the general population, international organizations fail to protect the human rights of women and girls by not providing them with counseling, education outreach, and training. These services would improve their health and give them opportunities to better themselves and their communities.

I urge you to provide improved social services that will promote reproductive health, offer counseling for victims of gender-based violence, and give Syrian refugee women training to become health and education promoters in the Zaatari camp. Having Syrian refugee women promote health and education would empower individuals by giving them an important job in their community and provide them with the opportunity to heal by establishing culturally appropriate, strong networks of trust.

Offering these social services that focus on empowerment through education and fostering protective social ties will help women to obtain leadership roles and resources necessary for survival so they do not have to resort to subsistence sex, endure abusive relationships with men, or partake in child marriage. The United Nations has the potential to implement such a plan that will provide Syrian refugee women and girls with tools for healing.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: eli_chan via Flickr

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75 Signatures

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