European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations

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Helping women migrants regain their sense of dignity

Women feel safe and are happy to cooperate with our community engagement team
Oxfam moved hundreds of people from inadequate sites to safe and dignified accommodation, Epirus, Greece. Photo: Angelos Sioulas/Oxfam

In response to the heavy winter conditions in Epirus, Greece, Oxfam, with funding from the EU, helped move over 300 people from inadequate sites to dignified accommodation, including hotels, with the support of the Greek Government and the funding of the European Commission's Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations. Sadia was among them.

Mitra Jalali, former Community Engagement Officer/Protection Focal Point, Oxfam in Greece

Though she approached me with such a big smile and ease about her, it was only after some minutes that I realised who she was.

Sadia was the same woman who I had met some days earlier struggling to keep calm in the dark and rain in the refugee camp, where she spent more than eight difficult months in precarious conditions.

The same woman who looked on helplessly while the men in the camp were arguing over the relocation of tents and containers, trying to force her and her children to move towards the back of the “Afghan block”, in one of the less lighted areas, away from the bathrooms.

When we met at the hotel where Sadia had been hosted over the last several weeks, she didn’t need to tell me how she was doing. I could tell just by looking at her face that she had regained her sense of dignity by living in better conditions. It had brought back some of her youthfulness that she had lost over the last several months.

I know that the last year of her life had been full of so many horrifying events: her journey from her country of origin Afghanistan through Iran and Turkey, mainly on foot and then across the Mediterranean Sea on a plastic life raft, nearly drowning along the way; the cold and wet winter nights living in a tent with her family; the tensions in the camp due to the poor living conditions and the frustration of others around her as they wait month after month for the results of their asylum cases.

Hope for the future

As Sadia and her family continue to wait on their asylum case, Sadia is still anxious about the future. Despite this, I am certain - by the way she carries herself now - that she is in a better place both physically and emotionally. It is incredible the difference that can be seen in her: she looks years younger, all from having access to the most basic things: a warm bed, a toilet, a shower, and a lock on her door.

These small things that we take for granted in our everyday lives have completely altered Sadia's outlook, and encourage her to be strong for the next steps in her life, wherever her future may be.

*Name changed to protect identity.

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