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Story and Perspective

Uniting Refugees and Host Communities in Egypt to Improve the Safety of Women and Girls

By: Jasmin Samy

Photo: UNICEF Egypt/Pathfinder Egypt


Migration has been on the rise for the past five decades, and there are currently more than 280 million people living in a country other their own. Often facing significant trauma and harrowing journeys to their final destinations, migrants and refugees encounter enormous obstacles when they arrive— challenges exacerbated when host communities are not welcoming.

In Egypt, which currently hosts approximately 460,000 refugees and asylum seekers from 59 countries, Pathfinder worked with local partner, Tadwein, to unite members of host and refugee communities through a program offering psychological and health assistance to individuals, particularly those who experienced or are vulnerable to gender-based violence (GBV). With funding from UNICEF Egypt, the project, “Strengthening Refugee Women’s and Girls’ Safety,” worked in Faisal, Giza, and Haram, Egypt, to:

  • engage local outreach workers and refugee volunteers in providing GBV prevention services to vulnerable women, girls, and boys;
  • strengthen the ability of health providers to provide inclusive, responsive GBV services; and
  • inform local communities about GBV through community-led initiatives.

The program built on an approach and training tools previously applied by Pathfinder in Egypt.

Reaching Vulnerable Families at Home

Through the project’s close relationship with the Ministry of Public Health, 10 outreach workers (referred to in Egypt as Raedat Refeyart [RR]) were paired with 10 volunteers from refugee communities to visit 150 households, identify victims of violence, and share information on where to receive health services like family planning, vaccinations for children, and mammograms, and which NGOs and UN organizations could offer them support. Prior to their home visits, the outreach workers and refugee volunteers received trainings on gender, violence against women, psychological first aid, and childhood nutrition.

This was the biggest achievement I did in my whole life. I managed to help these girls.

Israa, a Sudanese volunteer who attended a Pathfinder training

“I am very happy that I managed to help the Sudanese families I visited, and I became friends with all of them,” said Shiraz, a Sudanese volunteer who had been living in Egypt for five years with her three children. “It was great that we got to know the Egyptian RRs, not only during the home visits, but also at the trainings that we attended together. This was very beneficial for us. We learned how to deal with each other. I consider this project as a new life, a new beginning.”

Refugee-friendly Health Clinics

The project worked with six doctors and four nurses at one healthy facility in Giza to make health services more welcoming for refugees by improving providers’ knowledge of how to handle GBV cases, and enhancing their ability to respectfully communicate with patients from unique cultural backgrounds, and with different experiences and psychological needs. The project also upgraded a mobile clinic by improving the body of the van and procuring new equipment, including an ultrasound machine and autoclave. Mobile clinics provide a wide range of medical care in a single visiting, giving refugees more access to quality health care.

The project collected feedback from clients receiving services through the health facility and mobile clinic. The Ministry of Public Health is using that feedback to further improve the health care refugees receive.

“I am very grateful for this visit [to Kafr Tohormos health unit]. As a result of it, my son was treated for his injuries, and I got treated from a severe kidney pain,” said Radeya, a Sudanese woman who fled the war in Sudan with her three sons and suffers from kidney disease. “They also gave me a bag full of hygiene items. I have to say it was very beneficial to us.”

Rahma, a Sudanese woman and single mother of three.

Multicultural Community Champions Team

Children from the host and refugee community in Giz attending a Caravan day. The day included awareness sessions, distribution of messages on violence against women and girls, and fun activities for children.

At the same time, 15 community champions that spanned four nationalities (Syrians, Egyptians, Eritreans, and Sudanese) received training on communication and leadership skills, concepts related to GBV, and psychosocial support. They went out into communities and, with the support of our local partner Tadwein, led 80 sensitization sessions on GBV. Together, they reached 4,000 people, the majority women. In addition, Tadwein organized five “family days,” which combined activities like art, puppet shows, and a market for refugees to sell their products, with messages on prevention and response to violence against women. These community mobilization approaches were coupled with the dissemination of printed materials and social media campaigns addressing issues like school dropouts, early marriage, and intimate partner violence.

“I am so happy and relieved that we managed to save the three girls from [female genital mutilation] FGM,” said Wesal, a community champion.”

This experience has changed me a lot. I realized that I know little about different cultures. I am happy that in this project I was accepted, and I managed to help refugees and saw the impact on them.

Tasnim, a community champion working with refugee children

What Did We Learn?

Uniting refugees and host communities with a shared purpose is a powerful and effective way to reach the most vulnerable individuals. Egyptians’ knowledge of the local context was complemented by refugees’ insights about cultural preferences and how best to communicate sensitive issues. The project not only reached refugees with essential care and support it engaged them in meaningful ways, allowing them to form deep connections with communities from their own countries as well as the new country in which they reside. The project has had a lasting impact on the lives of women and girls.

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