Hope out of violence in Chad
One day, Amni Brahim Adam left her home in Darfur and never went back.
Sexual violence, genital mutilation, forced marriage and abduction are some of the dangers facing women in Chad’s refugee camps.
It wasn’t the conflict in the western Sudanese region that drove her away, because that hadn’t yet begun. It was the brutality in her own home that made her seek refuge elsewhere.
“Back home I didn’t have peace in my heart,” she says, “because my husband was a very violent man.”
Years after her separation, Mrs Adam was reunited with her husband at Milé camp in Chad. They were two of 250,000 people who sought safety in the neighbouring country following the outbreak of violence in Darfur in 2003.
Even after they were reconciled, her husband was still violent when he drank. Caritas Chad offered a way out of the cycle of violence with counselling sessions for Mr and Mrs Adam.
“They explained many things to us,” says Mrs Adam, “and I think that the advice has transformed my husband.”
Mediating in cases of violence is just one part of its work. Caritas also manages activities such as income generation, it works with the health and education sectors to ensure lactating women receive a supplementary food ration and young girls go to school, and it provides bereaved families with burial materials and food for the funeral.
Despite the work being done to make people’s lives more normal and create a sense of community, violence still casts a long shadow over the camp.
“The main type of violence is by men against their wives. This violence is rooted in the alcohol abuse which is increasingly common in the camp,” says Djora Nourène who is a community leader for sexual gender-based violence (SGBV) in the camp.
There are also cases of sexual violence against girls, genital mutilation, forced marriage and abduction.
Caritas appoints focal points in different areas of the camp to report any cases of violence so it can mediate between individuals and help them reconcile their differences. Caritas also raises awareness among the camp’s community about the issue of violence and the connection with alcohol abuse.
Cultural taboos mean that Caritas has to be very careful about how it deals with the issue of violence in the camp.
“There are very sensitive issues that we can not mention,” says Mimassengar Ardjam, sector coordinator. “The question of pregnancies and the recruitment of teenagers into the armed forces - on both issues, the refugees do not want to hear or talk about them.”
Mrs Adam says her husband has stopped drinking and is much less violent following the intervention of Caritas. She so appreciated the work that Caritas had done in helping restore peace in her marriage, that she decided to become an SGBV focal point herself, and report violence against other women.
She says the camp has changed her life and also that of her family. In Darfur there was no school and her children didn’t receive an education. In the camp, all four children go to school. Mrs Adam has also started to study.
“I can now read and write in Arabic despite the fact I’m getting old,” she says. “When I return to Sudan – which is what I dearly hope to do one day – I’ll share what I have learnt with other women.”
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