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Greece: Organisations support rights and health of refugee women

In the last few years following the refugee crisis, organisations in Greece have developed projects focusing on the rights and needs of female refugees. In Athens and its outskirts, where upwards of 21,000 refugees now live, organisations have been working to provide physical and psychosocial health support, educational courses and job opportunities to refugee women.

One example is the case of Soheila, an Afghan refugee, who after completing a training course now teaches maternal health and reproductive rights to refugee and migrant women. Her classes are part of a larger programme implemented by The Unmentionables, which provides access to sexual and reproductive health education to refugee and migrant communities.

Another initiative, Melissa Network, began as a small networking group for migrant women in Athens and has developed into an organisation with over 100 members. Melissa Network offers programmes and training on a wide range of subjects like language, art, drama therapy, product design and woodworking. Besides these classes, women who join Melissa Network are required to attend a certain number of workshops and seminars covering topics like women’s rights and legal issues in the asylum procedure.

For refugee women, and particularly for women who are victims of sexual and gender-based violence, knowing how the female body works and understanding their rights has proven to be a powerful combination as they rebuild their lives in Europe. However, experts note that there remains a gap in programming whereby refugee men are not given the same education and training on sexual and reproductive health, women’s rights and related topics, and this gap between refugee men and women can lead to conflict and violence at home. Thus, programmes focused on promoting the rights and health of female refugees may also need to work with refugee men, especially in cases of sexual and gender-based violence.

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